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Pfc. Eric Solon, a machine gunner with Weapons Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, overcomes an obstacle while conducting a leadership training exercise at the Leadership Reaction Course on Fort Pickett, Va., Sep. 14, 2011. More than 900 Marines and Sailors are taking part in the Deployment for Training exercise at Fort Pickett, Sept. 6-23. The battalion is scheduled to attach to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit as its Battalion Landing Team a few days after the training.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Michael J. Petersheim

Nearly impossible tasks build leadership for Marines training at Fort Pickett

23 Sep 2011 | Sgt. Richard Blumenstein 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

The mission: get four Marines across a pool of water with a can of ammunition in less than 12 minutes.

The obstacle: two electrically charged pipes hang a few feet above the water, and block the path to the other side.

The resources: two steel drums, two wooden planks, rope, chains, and all the ideas a fireteam of junior Marines can muster.

Ready, set, go!

The Marines of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment faced this scenario and 16 others to test their Marines’ problem solving, teamwork, and leadership skills during a day of training at Fort Pickett’s Leadership Reaction Course Sept. 14.

In the training, the Marines divided into fireteams of four and five. Each fireteam would arrive at a station and a Marine would be designated as the fireteam leader. He would then have two minutes to receive the scenario from the evaluator, ask questions, and devise a plan to accomplish the mission using scenario specific resources.

"They have to create a plan and execute it," said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Dible, the platoon sergeant of 2nd Platoon. "The evaluator is evaluating the leadership of how the Marine executes it, more importantly, is he communicating with the Marines he's in charge of? Are the Marines he's in charge of listening?"

Many of the obstacles went unsolved as Marines found themselves soaked head to toe in water, frustrated and stressed out.

"You have to have an open mind," said Cpl. Julian Valdez, an evaluator for the training and squad leader with 2nd Platoon. "You have to see the big picture, you have to know there is more than one way to do these things."

Solving the scenarios was not the point, according to Valdez.

"What this exercise is really meant to do is take guys who really don't know how to lead, and teach them to make decisions," he said.

At the end of each scenario, evaluators critiqued the fireteam leader, not on their ability to overcome the obstacle, but how they led their team while attempting to.

"They have to develop the mentality to think quick, to make decisive decisions and react quickly, those are the key essentials to leadership," said Lance Cpl. William Lim, a rifleman with 3rd Platoon. "You can't hesitate, that's what we're working on right now."

The training was a smaller part of the battalion's Deployment for Training exercise, which took place Sept. 6-23, on Fort Pickett. The battalion is scheduled to attach to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit a few days after the training, and later deploy with the MEU.