CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina — The scorching afternoon sun beat down on the necks of the Marines, pulling streams of sweat from their skin. They were exhausted having only gotten a few hours of sleep in the past three days. Their bodies were sore and aching from being pushed to their very limit. Still the Marines marched on. They were the best of the best, the elite, the most efficient rifle squads that the 2nd Marine Division has to offer. They would not quit until the mission had been completed, until one team was deemed the Infantry Rifle Squad Competition champion.
Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and India Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment competed in the annual 2nd Marine Division Infantry Rifle Squad Competition aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, June 17-19, 2015, in order to determine the most mission-ready squad in the division.
“This is part of the Competition-in-Arms Program which is a big thing in the Marine Corps,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert L. Tagliabue, the regimental gunner for 8th Marine Regiment and acting division gunner for 2nd Marine Division. “But there is more to competition in arms than just shooting. Basically, the purpose is to foster a competitive spirit among the Marines. The competition shows what a well-trained squad is capable of doing.”
The Competition-in-Arms Program is designed to create desire for self-improvement among the competing Marines and to enhance proficiency through training and competition.
During the three-day competition, the contending rifle squads proved their superior skills by completing events such as defensive and offensive operations, live-fire ambush patrols, a call-for-fire exercise, live-fire squad attacks, landing zone operations, a 2-mile endurance challenge and several known-distance shooting ranges. During the events, evaluators judged the Marines’ performance based on the standards set forth in the Training and Readiness Manual.
“Marines are competitive, we win,” said Tagliabue. “Marines don’t like second place.”
Tagliabue explained that the challenges and events of the competition are designed to tests the squad’s abilities to handle themselves in a realistic combat situation. This competition demonstrates that the Marines are constantly ready to jump into a deployed environment at a moment’s notice.
“Some of the stuff we put them through, the attacks and ambushes, the stress and the fatigue, the decision making, it’s a lot like combat,” said Tagliabue. “Friendly competition breeds proficiency. It pushes guys to train harder.”
Another benefit of the competition, Tagliabue explained, is the snowball effect the training has on the regiments as a whole. The members of the three best squads will advance through the ranks and teach the skills that they have learned to the Marines in their charge, allowing the entire 2nd Marine Division to benefit.
“The thing about this competition is that it is infectious,” said Tagliabue. “Those team leaders are going to move up to be squad leaders and those riflemen are going to move up to be team leaders. So really you’ve got about 40 or so Marines working on this, but those 40 Marines get it. If each of these Marines influences 10 other Marines, that’s 400 Marines that we are influencing through this competition.”
Not only will the Marines gain knowledge of the values of standards-based training, physical fitness and unit cohesion from this competition, but the winning squad will be recognized with a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal while their regiment holds the Infantry Rifle Squad Competition trophy until the next year’s competition.
“The guys put out. These guys never quit,” said Tagliabue. “Right up until the last minute they were pumped up and they were motivated. I’m proud as hell of all of them.”
The winning squad will be announced during an award ceremony July 1, 2015. They will also be recognized by the Commandant of the Marine Corps at a ceremony aboard Marine Barracks 8th and I in August.