Photo Information

A U.S. Marine with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), attempts to cross an obstacle on a makeshift rope bridge during a leadership reaction course at Fort Pickett, Va., Aug. 27, 2013. The Marines completed the course in order to increase their small-unit leadership skills as part of the MEU’s Realistic Urban Training exercise. The MEU is scheduled to deploy in early 2014 to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Hazard/Released)

Photo by Sgt. Austin Hazard

22nd MEU BLT puzzles through leadership reaction course

29 Aug 2013 | Sgt. Austin Hazard

U.S. Marines with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), completed a leadership reaction course (LRC) during the MEU’s Realistic Urban Training exercise at Fort Pickett, Va., Aug. 29, 2013, as part of the MEU’s preparation for its 2014 deployment.

 

More than 150 Alpha Company, BLT 1/6, Marines maneuvered through 17 different obstacles, some plunging into the cold waters of defeat, others leading their teams to success.

 

“The purpose of the LRC is to not only assess the leadership skills of your Marines, but also to see where they are with teamwork, critical thinking and making quick changes,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jose Vasquez, company gunnery sergeant and native of New York City. “This is to develop problem solving skills that they may need later.”

 

The Marines divided into 18 teams of eight, rotating through the different LRC obstacles, each of which required critical thinking and problem solving skills to maneuver.

 

“It reminds me of boot camp,” said Cpl. Kyle Fishe, machine gun squad leader and native of Sacramento, Calif. “These complicated puzzles really stretch the imagination.”

 

Each station had its own rules and objectives: red surfaces couldn’t be touched, certain objects had to be brought across the obstacle and a specific number of Marines had to make it across safely. The teams also had to complete each station in less than 20 minutes.

 

At each puzzle, a new Marine became the team leader for his group, formed a plan, organized his team and directed the Marines to success or failure.

 

“Rotating the leadership positions really shows you the other side of the coin while also teaching leadership itself,” said Pfc. Sam Gannon, rifleman and native of North Kingstown, R.I.

 

In this way, the course let every Marine try his hand at leading, but also allowed the company leadership to observe the potential of each Marine.

 

“It identifies the good leaders and the ones that need help,” said Fishe. “Overall, it’s showed me that we’ve trained them well and that they’re more capable than I first thought, that they can think on their own.”

 

The company’s noncommissioned officers (NCOs), staff NCOs and officers served as evaluators for the different stations, but the Marines were not judged simply on meeting the objective’s parameters at each obstacle. They were also judged on how well they controlled the situation, organized the Marines and adjusted their plans when necessary.

 

“This course really forces teamwork,” said Gannon. “Making the plan is the hardest part. If the plan doesn’t go well, you have to adjust. That’s the tricky part.”

 

“I think they’re realizing how important their NCOs’ jobs are,” said Vasquez. “They’re seeing how hard those jobs can be.”

 

Of the 17 obstacles, 10 required the teams to cross pools of water without falling in. By the end of the day, more than a dozen Marines were drenched or drying, but most wore smiles.

 

“The Marines have a way of finding fun in everything,” observed Vasquez. “With their brothers beside them, it all becomes easier. With a positive attitude, these guys can do almost anything.”

 

The MEU’s deployment will take it to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations.
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit