MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Twenty-two Marines were the first reservists to become Small Unit River Craft coxswain during the coxswain course here July 25 to Aug. 12.
Marines and U.S. Coast Guardsmen with the Special Missions Training Center taught the course.
The Marines will be the newest members of Small Craft Company, which until now has been comprised of only active duty Marines, according to Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Iversen, a chief instructor of the course.
The Marines will be relieving members of the company in Iraq and conducting a seven-month deployment there, according to Iversen.
“Because there is only one Small Craft Company in the Marine Corps, we do seven month rotations within the company,” Iversen said.
The company is used to combat terrorism not just on the river ways but also conduct raids, counter mortar patrols, island clearing, and insertion and extraction of troops, according to Iversen.
Unlike the other platoons in Small Craft Company which are made up entirely of infantrymen, this unit is made up of Marines with a variety of jobs, according to Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Scudder, the company gunnery sergeant. They have some infantrymen, Amphibious Assault Vehicle Marines and Marines with the Foreign Military Training Unit.
“These Marines have practically zero knowledge of the boats before training, and this training will either make them or break them in-country,” said Iversen.
The Marines go through a three-week course designed to teach them how to use the agile 40-foot crafts in combat, according to Iversen. The Marines learn about the engines of the craft, the heat signature it gives off, the use of its navigational system and use of night vision gear. The Marines also spend an extensive amount of time learning engine trouble shooting, tactical driving and high-speed maneuvers.
“These boats can go from their full speed of 40 knots to a full stop in just one boat length, it can also do a 180 degree turn at full speed in the same amount of space,” Iversen said.
The Marines final test is a 96-hour continuous field operation where they use everything they have learned from the previous two weeks, according to Iversen.
Throughout the course, the Marines are taught the lessons learned from the instructors during their time spent in Iraq, according to Iversen, who has completed two tours with Small Craft Company in Iraq. The lessons included the types of ambushes they received, tactics for conducting raids and scenarios for counter attacks.
The Marines all volunteered to be apart of the Small Craft Company and came from reserve unit stations all over the United States.
“I wanted to go to Iraq, and this seemed like it would be better than going as a grunt or amtracker,” said Cpl. John Suaraz, an Amphibious Assault Vehicle crewman attending the course.