MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - “Quick! Move to your next objective,” yells the instructor. They begin to sprint, despite the pain they feel spreading through their body. Several squad members provide security as others progress through varying obstacles. The sun continues to beat down on their sweat-ridden bodies as they low crawl with their faces in the mulch. Their squad leader urges them to not give up. “Keep pushing yourself,” he shouts. “Remember, you are a corporal of Marines!”
Noncommissioned officers participating in Corporals Course concluded their last day of training by conducting a four-hour case study, which incorporates real life scenariors into training locations available in the area, that began at Boondocker Training Area and ended at Dewey Square, Feb. 25, 2014.
The case study was designed to match the same scenarios Gunnery Sgt. Timothy C. Tardif, staff noncommissioned officer of Scout Sniper School, School of Infantry-Detachment Hawaii, faced as a corporal in combat.
According to a Department of Defense citation, April 12, 2003, Cpl. Timothy C. Tardif ran headfirst through intense small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire during a battle in Tarmiyah, 30 kilometers north of Baghdad, and encouraged his fellow Marines to engage the enemy. During the intense, close-quarters battle, Tardif was wounded after receiving shrapnel but refused medical attention as he continued to assault the enemy compound. Once the compound was secured, Tardif was ordered to withdraw from the area but continued to fight the enemy as he egressed. After traveling 150 meters, the wounds became too severe and Tardif collapsed.
Thirteen months later Tardif was awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award.
Suited with their flak jacket, Kevlar helmet, M16A4 service rifle and a daypack, the Marines began the case study by attempting to complete a challenging scenario in the leadership reaction course.
The purpose of the challenge is to transport a squad of Marines from one side to the other without touching “unsafe” areas, and to see how squad leaders react during different situations.
Following the LRC, the squad of Marines ran to the obstacle course and tactically advanced through the varying obstacles. Marines posted on the outside of each obstacle after clearing it in order to allow their squad members to advance positions.
Each squad faced similar scenarios in each of the courses, such as an enemy throwing a fragmentation grenade within kill radius of the Marines while they helped each other make it over the wall on obstacle course. From there, the squad advanced to assault a military operations on urban terrain facility as several Marines became “wounded” and played the roles of Tardif and Marines who fought alongside him.
“We wanted a program that would enhance small unit leadership skills as well as making the experience memorable,” said Sgt. Savanna Tardif, Corporals Course faculty advisor, and a 27-year-old native of Oakdale, Minn. “This is the only course in the entire Marine Corps that is taken from those specific events and incorporated into actual training, and we’re making sure the program we designed benefits the Marines in this course the best way possible.”
The three squads wrapped up their training at Boondocker training area and hiked to the base pool to continue the case study. There, the Marines stripped their gear and were tasked to complete a 100-meter swim as quickly as possible.
Exhausted after swimming, the Marines found the strength to re-equip their gear and complete their mission. At this point in the exercise, the Marines fulfilling the roles of Cpl. Tardif, Cpl. Martinez and Lance Cpl. Gardner had “collapsed,” meaning their squad members would have to fireman carry them to the evacuation point at Dewey Square.
Once there, the Corporals Course class completed the event.
“It’s important for each of the Marines to understand why we put them through those different scenarios,” Savanna Tardif explained. “The case study was based off of somebody who has been through combat, and to have him here to talk to the Marines at the end tied everything together perfectly.”
As they rested, the class received the opportunity to speak to Timothy C. Tardiff.
“What got me through that day were my Marines, because without them I wouldn’t be here right now,” the 32-year-old Denver native said. “A lot of people sacrificed their lives that day, and for me to be here representing them is an honor.”
Tardif shared his experience as a corporal in combat and the challenges he faced to get back on the battlefield after sustaining injuries. He also opened the floor to questions and spoke about the importance of leadership.
“As you progress through your career, you’re going to face some leadership challenges, but you can’t let it affect you,” he explained. “When it comes to completing the mission it’s not about you or me, it’s about the bond you share with your Marines.”
Looking ahead to the future of their Marine Corps careers, these Marines took what they learned from the case study training exercise and have a clear understanding of what makes a good leader.
“I learned that making sound and timely decisions are difficult but possible under mental and physical stressors,” said Cpl. Shawn Coover, reproduction graphics chief for MCB Hawaii Combat Camera, and a 25-year-old native of Muncy, Pa. “Knowing the events were based off of a true scenario made me realize how possible it is to be in these situations, and as an NCO I need to be the best I can be for those under my charge.”