USS Kearsarge, At Sea --
Marines and sailors assigned to Company I, Battalion Landing Team 3/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a team leaders course aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD3), Sept. 1st to Sept. 6th.
“Team leaders course is a course designed by myself to include my platoon sergeant and squad leaders,” said 1st Lt. Gregory Utkin, platoon commander for 1st platoon, Company I. “It is a tool to identify which Marines in the platoon have retained the knowledge they have learned over the last 18 months, and to identify future team leaders for the next platoon commander and platoon sergeant.”
The course covers a variety of skills, testing the Marines on what information they were able to retain through their extended training.
“The course is being judge on three things: leadership, physical capabilities and a knowledge portion on basic infantry knowledge,” said Lance Cpl. Forrest Gildersleeve, a rifleman with Company I from Grass Valley, Calif. “We started with an overall test, and conducted [physical training] every day. We did a daily three mile run and at least two sets of pull ups as well as calisthenics and ramp runs. There was also a drill portion where we were tested on our ability to give commands.”
Being afforded the opportunity to be a team leader is one of the first big jumps in responsibility for infantry Marines giving them junior Marines to take charge of, as well as keeping accountability of the Marines, their gear and delegating tasks while making sure it is all done in a timely and appropriate manner.
“A team leader is a billet usually held by a corporal. However, a lance corporal must be able to assume the duties and responsibilities,” said Utkin. “He is responsible for everything his team does or fails to do. This ranges from the daily basic routine, to the tactical proficiency of his team in combat. A team leader carries out the orders given to him from his squad leader. He must be able to fill the role of squad leader at any given time.”
With a numerous amount of peers and a very structured environment, standing out to a command or taking lead can sometimes be a challenge for infantry Marines.
“This course affords the individual infantry rifleman to demonstrate to his peers and platoon leadership that he either has what it takes to be a team leader or he does not. It also gives him a chance to lead his peers,” said Utkin.
Instead of only focusing on finishing top in his peer group, Gildersleeve has taken the course and turned it into a learning opportunity for himself.
“This course has exposed weaknesses to myself as well as exposing the weaknesses of everyone around me,” he said. “I will be able to work on that, not just for myself in the competition, but to actually help out the other guys in my platoon.”