Story by Sgt Kayla D. Rivera on 05/09/2017"The purpose is for the students to be given a more realistic situation with live personnel, as the objectives, shooting back at them," said Staff Sgt. Sean Litchfield, section leader, Close Quarters Battle instructor, Training Co., U.S. Marine Corps Security Force Regiment. "This requires students to make faster decisions; whether they have to shoot a threat, control an occupant or deal with an improvised explosive device.
At noon, students assembled around the instructors dressed in tactical gear from head to toe: Kevlar helmets, safety masks, flak vests, groin protectors, an M9 Beretta pistol on their hips, an M16 A4 service rifle in their hands, and breaching gear such as shields, area markers, and flash bang grenades. Once the instructors passed all necessary information during the safety brief, the final exercise of Phase II began.
During the 24-hour exercise, instructors like to see how well the students apply the knowledge they have gained throughout the course.
The exercise began with a safety brief that lead into the first mission. Students were required to carry out several different missions during this exercise. After each mission was completed, the instructors debriefed the students on the mission, highlighting strengths and weaknesses to prepare them for their next mission.
Between missions and tasks, students usually try to work within their teams to devise a plan for the next situation. Some missions included recovering an asset such as a hard drive. Other situations may require Marines to secure the building and eliminate all threats.
"We leave as much planning to the students as possible. If they decide to split into two teams to make a coordinated entry, that is their call to make," said Litchfield. "While they are briefing their plan to each other, an advanced range safety officer and point safety officer are listening to make sure their plan is safe. If it is safe to conduct, instructors are required to stay out of the process. "
The students were accustomed to clearing houses with live ammunition while using paper targets, but during Operations Phase, the students used simulation ammunition rounds with live occupants and threats in the objectives, played by the instructors.
"Those 24 hours really put things into a different perspective for us," said Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams, platoon sergeant, CQB student, U.S. Marine Corps Security Force Regiment. "You really have to take your time, concentrate on the objectives and communicate everything because if you don't you're going to get shot, and those simulated ammunition rounds actually hurt."
Throughout these 24 hours, students are put under additional stress. Their sleep is limited due to frequent missions, some of which are false alarms. Their rations are normal for a typical day, however with inadequate sleep and remaining alert for the next call, the provided rations may seem less than suitable.
According to Williams, his team had a reality check when they falsely deemed an occupant as non-threatening, and failed to complete a proper search. While they were fixated on ensuring the occupant's protection and moving him to safety, they overlooked the wires coming from the occupant's clothing, simulating a notional IED, which would have caused casualties or fatalities among the team upon detonation.
In the case of a false alarm, an alarm sounds and the students don their tactical gear and rush to the bus. Once the students are on the bus, the instructors call a "false alarm." Accountability will be taken to ensure all students are present, and then they will return to their sleeping cycle for a short period until the next situation arises.
"No training scenario can ever replicate a violent, live-fire confrontation. Our job is to simulate the best way we can for the students of our school. Simulation ammunition rounds can be painful and can bring out new attributes from a student that we haven't seen before," said Litchfield. "Some students who have been confident in tactics throughout the school can become timid and struggle through this phase, while other students who had problems dealing with notional occupants and threats display a more take charge' attitude and adrenaline rush protecting their buddies."
According to Williams, receiving the certificate for completion of CQB was very gratifying.
"It was awesome realizing we reached the end, and graduated. I know Marines that instructed these courses. It's a very small community; there aren't many Marines that are CQB qualified in the Marine Corps. I feel like this was a big accomplishment for my career and I am very proud of the Marines that went in, gave it their all and stood by me to receive that piece of paper," said Williams.
Following completion of this course, students returned to their units and continued performing drills they've learned during CQB. This course's objective is to prepare the students for real-life scenarios, thinking outside the box while in a combat environment and being able to take the appropriate actions.
"I look forward to going back to my unit and bringing the knowledge and skills these instructors have instilled in me. I think I'm better prepared for taking control and clearing out enclosures. I just want my Marines to practice what they've learned so that's what we'll be doing upon our return; train and shoot all day so that we don't lose anything," said Williams