By Vince LittleApril 4, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 4, 2012) -- The Army and Marine Corps Infantry schools are seeing how the other half lives this spring.
Two Sand Hill drill sergeants from 2nd Battalion, 54th Infantry Regiment, have traded places with a pair of Marine combat instructors assigned to the Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry (East), on Camp Geiger at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, N.C. The Soldiers left March 12, and are expected back Saturday. Army officials said the Marines' timetable is roughly a week behind, so there will be some overlap here.
The branches are building stronger bonds in an effort to cultivate new ideas, techniques and approaches to combat training while sharing lessons learned from the battlefield, said Sgt. 1st Class David Gibson, the senior drill sergeant for 4th Platoon, C Company, in 2-54 Inf.
"We want to get a better understanding of what our sister service is doing with their Infantry," he said. "Right now, we're mostly learning we have a lot of similarities. On the battlefield, there have been many times I've worked with the Marines hand in hand. To be able to work together like this will help things go seamlessly for these trainees whenever they're on a patrol or in a firefight together later on."
Staff Sgt. Nicholas White, one of Gibson's drill sergeants, is wrapping up his stint with the Marines this week. Filling his spot in C Company is Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Mutter, who arrived March 21 and "hit the ground running," Gibson said.
During his time on Sand Hill, Mutter will advise and instruct Soldiers in Marine Corps tactics and techniques. He said he'd contrast that to what's being done in the Army and see if any new concepts emerge.
"I'm thoroughly impressed with the Soldiers here so far," he said. "I just want to ensure they understand the history and heritage behind the Marine Corps. As a combat instructor, I want to make sure they understand why we do what we do and how to do it the proper way."
While there are many parallels in training, a few differences are obvious, both sides say.
For starters, every prospective Marine, regardless of their military occupational specialty, or MOS, goes through boot camp together, either in San Diego or at Parris Island, S.C., before moving on to specialized training. Army drill sergeants, on the other hand, combine the two in one station unit training.
"It's pretty amazing they can be the strong fist for basic training and also mentor Soldiers in their specific Infantry job," Mutter said. "They're really crunched for time here. We have a little more time -- we get 59 days for our combat training and we train every Infantry MOS.
"Patrolling is a very big piece of our program. In the Army, it's about a week long."
Tactically, the Army has two teams of nine-member squads. The Marines place 13 on each squad and move out with three teams.
"The Marine Corps is big on small-unit warfare," said Mutter, who's deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. "Small-unit maneuvers are what wins wars. You have to get up on the enemy and take away their positions. We have a patrolling exercise coming up here, and I'm anxious to see if I can take something away from it."
Likewise for Gibson, who said the Infantry Soldiers could acquire more firepower on the ground by incorporating some of the Marine squad tactics.
"(Mutter) will be teaching the privates what to do and what not to do -- he just happens to wear a different uniform," he said. "This gives trainees a full understanding of their TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) across the board. They're getting the best combat training experience from the Army and Marines. You can't beat that."
Gibson said the swap will provide the two Marine combat instructors with a "better understanding of how we conduct our business," which should widen their knowledge base upon returning to North Carolina.
"It can only better all of us," Mutter said. "When I get back, I can tell them exactly what I've seen from the Army side and what they do. We fight side by side and go into combat together. It's the Infantry -- we're all in this together."