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Marines from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune conduct a live-fire scenario exercise during the Infantry Small Unit Leader Course Sept. 19. The six-week course comprised of 17 sergeants from different units.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Nik S. Phongsisattanak

ISULC sharpens minds of leading sergeants

19 Sep 2012 | Lance Cpl. Nik S. Phongsisattanak

Whether attacking, defending or patrolling, Marines are continually challenged by dynamically diverse and forever changing scenarios they face in combat.

War is a game of chess, and the deciding factors that lead to a successful mission start from lowest level of leadership. Small-unit leaders make the split second choices, which ultimately affect the larger goal. Marines from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune learned to improve their decision-making skills during the Infantry Small Unit Leader Course.

“We're here to teach them how to think, not what to think,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Puckett, the chief instructor of the Infantry Small Unit Leader Course with MCB Camp Lejeune. “These Marines are decision makers at the small (unit) level. They make decisions at the tactical level; it's not at the operational or strategic level, but those decisions are effected from the tactical level.”

The six-week course was comprised of 17 sergeants from different units. This new course was designed to improve the proficiency of the infantry sergeants serving as squad and section leaders. ISULC guides the Marines toward the development of their critical-thinking skills, challenges their ability to problem solve and supports cognitive development.

During the course the students review case studies, experienced by the Marines in real scenarios from the past, learning from history to improve the future. The course also includes tactical decision games, sand-table exercises, field training and live-fire exercises.

Instructors present students with a variety of missions for tactical decision games and challenge them by presenting them new problems to change the scenario. The students don't know what to expect, so their mindset is to prepare themselves for anything and everything.

“In a training environment we have to paint an enemy situation as best we can,” said Puckett. “The enemy is smart, but we're teaching these sergeants to be smarter by adapting to the scenarios they face. The important part of the course is the decision making because it improves the choices they'll make with the tactical freedom they have on a mission.”

The students take turns leading their peers through training scenarios, while instructors coach and assess. Students also assessed their peers and participate in the after-action reviews.

“It's great to see the change in leadership roles because we get to see how the other (peer) performs,” said Sgt. Dachel Avalo, a mortorman with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. “We all think differently. The course brings individuals from different units with different experiences. We get to learn how everyone leads and make decisions.”

Puckett said instead of individual training they base the course on collective action.

“These sergeants are veterans,” said Puckett. “They've made great decisions in different scenarios. There's always something you can learn from someone else.”

The training was certainly not a walk in the park. The sergeants all had to overcome a course designed to stress their mental and physical capabilities. Even the most experienced Marines made mistakes, however, they all learned from them.

“There may be many of us who are leaders, but there's always room for improvement,” said Avalo. “This course will definitely help the leading sergeants think on their feet and make great decisions. I'm lucky to be able to go through this course, and it has only made me a better leader.”

The sergeants in the course didn't learn to shoot better or train to run faster. They sharpened their minds, which is the best weapon they have.