MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. – Often times the most influential individual to a Marine in both training and combat is his fire team leader.
During the Integrated Training Exercise here, the Marines of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, put their fire team leaders to the test as they led their Marines through multiple physically and mentally demanding training events.
The ITX is a monthlong training evolution the Marines conduct prior to deployment, and in this training, the fire team leaders bore a great deal responsibility as they proved they can fill their role.
“Great small-unit leaders are the reason the Marine Corps runs smoothly,” said Sgt. Benjamin Knight, a squad leader serving with Kilo Co. “That lance corporal or corporal is in charge of that team and is responsible for tasking out the Marines under him to complete the squad leader’s intent, which ultimately is the battalion commander’s intent.”
Being a team leader isn’t something easy, said Knight, 25, from Hazen, N.D. A fire team leader has to be able to lead by example, understand his job and make important decisions quickly.
“The Marines will follow someone who they respect, and just by holding yourself to the same standard you set for them makes a difference,” Lance Cpl. Jared Edwards, a team leader serving with Kilo Co. 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, “By leading by example, it shows your junior Marines that you are willing to go through whatever they go through.”
Not only do the Marines have the responsibility of leading, but they must understand their job as well, Knight said. If the fire team leader understands his job and knows how to effectively use his team, it makes things easier for the squad leader.
“Yesterday an incident happened in training where role-players triggered a simulated improvised explosive device and my team leaders began issuing commands to their team enabling me to focus on calling in a medical evacuation for the wounded,” Knight said. “When they know their job so well I don’t have to issue commands, it makes things run very smoothly.”
When a squad leader can rely on his team leaders, it allows him to complete other task, and the squad functions better as a whole, he added.
“I’d rather have great small-unit leaders in my platoon opposed to having good squad leaders or platoon sergeants because the small leaders are the ones giving orders and turning the gears for the squad,” said 1st Lt. Taylor Gillig, a platoon commander serving with Kilo Co.