By Caroline GotlerMarch 17, 2009
It's not often that Soldiers, Navy Seals and Marines are all on the same team, but at the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leaders Course, cooperation across military branches is all in a day's work.
RSLC, led by the Ranger Training Brigade, is a 26-day course teaching skills such as observation and reporting, in-depth planning, surveillance site construction, and use of radio and cameras. Training is divided between classroom instruction and hands-on work in the field.
"It's a special set of skills they're not going to get anywhere else in the Army," said CPT Brian Canny, executive officer for D Company, 4th Ranger Training Battalion.
Soldiers in grades E-4 and above in Infantry and Field Artillery units, as well as units that work closely with Infantry and Field Artillery, are eligible to attend, as are service members from other branches involved in reconnaissance and surveillance operations. Soldiers in grade E-3 may apply through a waiver process. While being Airborne or Ranger qualified is not a prerequisite, RSLC students must have a current Ranger physical exam.
After completing RSLC, service members return to their units better able to contribute to intelligence missions at the battalion level, and can teach others what they've learned, Canny said.
"We get a wide spectrum of guys coming in here," he said. "There's a little bit of cross-leveling of experience and information across the branches that everybody's sharing while they're here. So something a guy from Marine Reconnaissance or Navy Seals or Special Forces or Ranger Regiment knows, a guy from the 3rd Infantry Division can also pick up on and take back and share with his unit."
For SSG Eric Henne, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C., training with members of other military branches and branches of the Army was a highlight of the course.
"People ... get all these mind sets in their heads about the Navy or the Marines, but when you all come together, it's like you become that tight team and you form that bond," he said. "You start sharing stories about how you train and do things differently. It makes it so you're not so narrow-minded."
Navy Ensign Jose Sanchez, Seal Team 3, called RSLC an "eye-opening" experience.
"One of the main reasons why I came was to see how the Army operates," he said. "A lot of things we have in common, but some of the terms are different and that takes a little while to get used to. But once you do, you see things are really similar. Overall, you have kind of the same missions planning and execution processes."
For SPC Travis Kittleson, 82nd Airborne Division, RSLC was an opportunity to gain valuable leadership experience.
"This is a good class for soon-to-be NCOs," he said. "This course is great at teaching leadership skills on top of the recon skills they give you. While we were out in the field, I was a team leader and assistant team leader, so I took control of the patrol and led them myself."
Although Fort Benning is the Army's only RSLC site, other installations can reap its benefits thanks to RSLC's mobile unit training, where teams of RSLC instructors travel to an installation.
"Instead of them having to pay to send all their folks out here, which is probably more cost prohibitive to them, we can go to them," said 1SG Paul Bailey, D Company, 4th Ranger Training Battalion. "We can train almost twice as many guys ... being able to go there and take the course on the road as opposed to them coming here."
RSLC instructors also act as observers and controllers for units training to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan at the Army's National Training Center and Joint Readiness Training Center.
"Reconnaissance is such a small asset within the Army that a lot of the observers and controllers at NTC and JRTC don't have the experience that we have," Canny said. "So we go in there and get the unit up to speed on reconnaissance assets."
There are nine RSLC classes set for 2009, and RSLC leaders are aiming to fill all of the 82 slots available in each class.
"With the Army focusing more on reconnaissance over the last five years or so, it's a good course for guys to come through and learn those skills," he said.