ITB extends training, Marines better prepared for future

3 Dec 2001 | Sgt. Sharon M. Allen

The newest infantrymen to the Marine Corps are now receiving better training.  Implemented in October, Infantry Training Battalion at the School of Infantry expanded their training from 37 to 52 days.

The expanded time schedule allows for more emphasis on physical training, close-combat, patrolling and live-firing of weapons, making new Marines more prepared to join an infantry platoon within a division.  They will be in better shape and more prepared to go to war if their unit deploys as a new-join.

"I think the training here is really great," said Pfc. Jacob A. Librizzi, a student with Alpha Company from Erie, Pa.  "There is so much more training than I expected."

The new schedule allows students more live-fire training too.  Prior to the extension, instructors found it difficult to thoroughly teach aspects of infantry as they had to rush through evolutions in order to make it to the next.  They now can concentrate on individuals and allow the new Marines to absorb the material.

"We now have a lot more one-on-one time with the Marines," said Cpl. Sean H. Miles, an Alpha Co. instructor from Richmond, Va.  "We ran reiterate more of the material.  There is more repetition, more instruction and better training."

While at ITB, infantrymen can learn five different military occupational specialties: basic rifleman (0311), machine gunner (0331), mortarman (0341), assaultman (0351) and anti-tank guided missileman (0352).  Before the new schedule was implemented, all five MOSs trained together throughout the entire 37-day training cycle.  However, with the new training guidelines, the students spend the first 14 days together learning basic infantry skills, then for the following 24 days they split into MOS groups to focus on MOS specifics.

The standardized training has also added more tests, giving the command greater accountability for skills being learned and absorbed.  The students now take 10 written exams and 44 performance evaluations.

In addition to testing, students receive about 26 more hours of physical training, three hours of nuclear biological and chemical exercises, extra patrolling time and 19 extra hours of close-combat training.  Night Vision Goggle training has also been added to the schedule.  Students learn to read maps, patrol and even drive with the AN/PVS-7B NVGs.

Although the training schedule allows for additional hours to enhance training, the instructors are the backbone behind the program.  Most of the instructors work 14 to 17-hour days, sharing their knowledge and experience with future warfighters.

"The noncommissioned officers really work with us, giving us a lot of attention to the specifics," said Pfc. Damin M. Snyder, a student from Kingston, N.Y.  "They teach us the tricks of the trade.  I think I'd be very prepared if I had to put my training to use as soon as I hit the fleet.  They have brought us to a whole different level of training."

Because of the long hours, many instructors said they feel their positions should be made into a B-billet. 

"As instructors, we play a large roll in the process of making Marines," said Cpl. Kelvin Morgan who is at the end of his tour with SOI.  "Instructors put their hearts into this place, and should be rewarded for it."

Morgan said the instructors at Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT) often put in 300 hours within a 17-day training cycle.  He added that ITB and MCT instructors share similar work hours.  He discussed a Marine Corps Times article which was recently published that drew some light on this issue.  He was glad the subject had been approached and more attention should be paid to formally addressing the topic.

Despite hard work and long hours, SOI instructors are up to the challenge of training new Marines who come through their schools; Marines who will leave better trained and prepared for the Fleet Marine Force.