News: Illinois Marine prepares younger Marines to fill his shoes
Story by Lance Cpl. Timothy Lenzo
PATROL BASE GUMBATTY, Afghanistan - The Marine double checks his men’s gear and begins to debrief, Feb. 26. The squad leader asked the Marines about the different Afghan locals they talked to and assessed what the squad did well and what they could improve on.
For Cpl. Ian Ward, a squad leader with 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, the job isn’t done simply because the patrol is.
Ward, currently deployed with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, dissected the patrol with his Marines, going over what worked and what needed improvement.
The Mundelein, Ill. native takes training and mentorship seriously, demanding the best from his Marines.
“I take a lot of the responsibility of making sure the Marines are ready,” said Ward. “I try to keep training them, teaching them as much as I can, before and throughout the deployment, so they’ll be ready next year when all their senior Marines (have rotated out).”
Ward plans to stay in the reserves, while attending college, when his contract ends with the Marine Corps next fall, but his mind is focused on the squad.
“By this point in the deployment, there isn’t as much of a separation between junior and senior Marines,” said Ward. “You need to maintain a professional relationship.”
While still maintaining a close relationship with the Marines, Ward also makes known who’s in charge.
While on patrol today, Ward counseled one of his Marines. The correction was light, but firm, making sure his Marine knew what was wrong.
Ward said it’s important for him to not let his squad become complacent, especially with their deployment drawing to an end.
“Mentoring is big, because everything we do, the Marines will do,” added Cpl. Manuel Ortiz, a team leader with the platoon. “That’s why you try to do everything perfect, and by the book. So next year, whenever they mentor their Marines, they’ll be perfect too.”
Mentoring the Marines doesn’t end when the patrol ends.
“You have to watch their health, make sure their eating right and keeping clean,” said Ward.
It’s not just the Marines’ physical health that squad and team leaders like Ward and Ortiz watch out for.
Ortiz emphasized the importance of talking to their Marines about any issues they may encounter. Ortiz talked to his Marines about their families back home, girlfriends and the stresses from their deployment.
“You have to constantly talk to the Marines, see how they are doing back home, any problems, even with girlfriends,” said Ortiz. “If we encounter an IED, see how they are dealing with it.”
Ward agreed that the mental health is just as important as the physical health.
“If we have access to phones, you have to push to the younger guys to call home,” said Ward. “Especially if they’re on their first deployment, a lot of the guys get homesick. You have to keep an eye out for them.”
When Ward notices a Marine who is excelling, he starts pushing him to take more responsibility.
“Sometimes on patrols we give the junior guys the leadership billet,” said Ward. “We give them the squad leader seat, and then shadow them, making sure they’re doing everything right. We try to give them as much experience as they can get.”
Ward said his seniors passed their lessons and experience to him, and now he’s doing the same to his Marines.
“You can see the progression, when first coming to the unit, to toward the end of the deployment, a little more of the burden of responsibility gets passed on,” said Ward.
Ward passed his lessons to his Marines and when he leaves, he knows they’ll be ready.
“With a little more work, they’re going to be ready to fill the shoes,” added Ward with a smile. “It’s gratifying to know that you did something to help prepare them to be ready.”
Editors Note: The 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines are currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6, which is part of Task Force Leatherneck. First Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck, the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest), and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance