From high in the mountains of the Kahuku Training Facility to the open terrain of the Kaneohe Bay Range Training Facility, Marines participated in a 7-week-long Advanced Infantry Course to become squad leaders.
The AIC, which is conducted by the by the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, Detachment Hawaii, is an advanced infantry Military Occupational Specialty course for Marines training to be infantry squad leaders.
Capt. James Arnold, the commanding officer of Detachment Hawaii, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, observed the class’ progress as they trained to become squad leaders. He said before they could go to the field, the Marines needed plenty of classroom time.
“Marines started the course with a week proving their skills as infantrymen, confirming their basic skill sets and followed by two weeks in a garrison environment, which includes course work and rigorous physical training geared towards being a squad leader,” said Arnold, a St. Louis, Miss., native. “After time in the classroom and staying in garrison, we conducted one week of live fire at the range followed by 3 consecutive weeks of field exercises.”
He said the three main goals the instructors try to instill in the students are infantry basics, improving small unit leadership and tactical knowledge.
“One of the goals we instill in the Marines is infantry excellence and for us that means helping them master the basics,” Arnold said. “The second thing I want the students to get out of the course are the skills associated with small unit training.”
Sgt. Rudy Simmons, the chief instructor for the Advance Infantry Course, with Advance Infantry Training Battalion, Detachment Hawaii, spent nights in the field with the students and shared his experience with them.
“This is a course for infantry squad leaders to come and add more tools to their toolbox to become better leaders and improve their skills so that when they return to their rifle platoons in the fleet, the students can pass on their new-found knowledge and experience to make their squads that much better,” said Simmons, a San Diego, Calif., native. “The course also helps Marines become critical thinkers and have a more in-depth idea of being an infantryman, especially as a squad leader. There are many skills associated with being a squad leader in the infantry.”
He said some of the skills Marines learn include being able to communicate with various aircraft, calling in coordinates for fire missions, speaking to indirect fire assets, advance land navigation, advance controlling, and preparing for offensive and defensive operations.
“A huge thing instructors preach is the ability to bring together the student’s ideas, so their orders can communicate efficiently and gain confidence in their superiors and squad,” Simmons said.
He also added that the students had to prepare for the rigorous range and field exercises, which included a scenario with mountain and jungle warfare training at the Kahuku Training Facility.
“We created a scenario for the students, in which they faced raids and ambushes day and night,” Simmons said. “They also conducted patrols and took turns as a squad leader. The way they handle themselves and how much they put into the exercise, dictates their scenario that they may come across as they patrol and operate.”
Cpl. Anthony Reina, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, said the course is tough; you face a lot of mental and physical obstacles that you need have to be overcome.
“There is a lot of knowledge to learn in the classroom and out here in the field. Some of the challenges were staying up late on the weekends doing worksheets and homework, writing combat orders, and getting little to no sleep during field operations.”
He said the instructors induced a lot of friction on the acting squad leaders and the other Marines. The course was a great experience and helped make his fellow Marines become closer as a unit.
“I’ll never forget the riot gas and getting slayed doing physical training on the beaches,” Reina said. “I really enjoyed the classroom environment because the instructors sit down one-on-one with you and helped you with anything you needed. They focused on each Marine to help them make it to graduation.”
Reina said he now has a lot of friends from all these different units.
“To be in this course, you got to train hard, study your knowledge, and you have to want to be here,” said Reina. “You have to want this and just never quit. It’s worth it because being a squad leader in Marine infantry is the best job anyone can ask for.”
He said finishing AIC takes a lot of determination and willpower.
“The jungle is no joke, with the centipedes and all the humidity mixed with the mud up to your knees,” said Reina. “When I go back to 29 Palms, I want to bring back everything I learned from this course to pass on to my junior Marines. The worksheets, homework, knowledge and everything we used for all the classes we received here will be passed on to my junior Marines because of how important it is. I thought coming into course I knew a lot; but in reality, I still had a lot to learn.”
By Lance Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres