Recon Rendezvous Issue

Rendezvous: A meeting at a prearranged time and place. Isn't it time you made yours with those who walked the same path?

Reunion   Anaheim, California,
August 26-30, 09

1stRecon Bn Association Luncheon and Visit to 1st Recon Battalion: The South Mesa Club, Camp ,Pendleton is the site of our reunion luncheon Friday, August 28th, 12:00-2:00 pm. Lt Col Michael Mooney, USMC, the CO of 1st Recon Battalion, is our reunion Guest of Honor. The buffet meal costs $35.00 per person. RSVP for the luncheon and/or sponsor a Marine or Corpsman, by Sunday 24 August; checks or money orders should be made out to “1st Recon Battalion Association”; mail your reservation and check to: Charlie Kershaw 2527 Unicornio Street Carlsbad, CA 92009. Bus transportation (55 passengers) is reserved for travel to Camp Pendleton and return ($5.00 per person).

Silent Auction and Raffle: Our Association’s operating revenue comes from your donations and reunion activities such as our raffle and silent auction. Please donate items for our silent auction and reunion raffle. Proceeds from the silent auction go to the 1st Recon Battalion Association General Fund, while raffle proceeds will be divided between the 1st Marine Division Association Scholarship Fund and our General Fund. Past auction/raffle items have included Marine Corps uniform items, memorabilia, K-Bars, books, military art, & gift certificates. Help your Association. If you can donate something for the auction or raffle, contact Charles “Howdy” Howdyshell at:

1st Recon Bn Association Annual Membership Meeting/Election of Officers: Saturday, 29 August, 1300 -1500. Members attending the Annual Membership Meeting will elect an Associate Director and FMDA Unit Director. Our Association needs directors willing and able to give their time and talent and accept the responsibility of Association leadership.


Recon Cruise Nov. 8 -13, 2010
Our Recon Reunion committee, Dave "Doc" Snider, Carole Snider, Bob Morris and Don Streeter have put together a Recon Reunion for November of 2010 that will be a little different from what we have done before. We are proposing a Caribbean Cruise to celebrate the Marine Corps birthday. Doc and Carole are taking the lead and are working with a travel agent and have found the best value for a cruise to be: November 8 - 13, 2010 Royal Caribbean 'Radiance of the Seas' - a 5-star ship Sailing out of Tampa, FL for 5 nights Attached is a flyer that outlines the itinerary. The same PDF has a second page that is a form to fill out if you want to make a reservation We are currently holding 30 cabins of various types including Balcony, Ocean View & Inside. We need to see what the interest level is fairly quickly. This pricing is only guaranteed for several months so reserve now to assure the lowest fares. The per person pricing based on double occupancy for the 5-night cruise is: Inside Cabin (Category N) $359 plus $51.19 tax Outside Cabin (Category H) $459 plus $51.19 tax Balcony Cabin (Category E3) $549 plus $51.19 tax This is an excellent price for this quality of ship. We will also continue to watch to see if a better price or military discount becomes available. If we get enough people signed up to get a free room or on-board credit, this would all be divided between the group. My wife and I are organizing this purely as volunteers. The refundable deposit for this cruise is $200 per cabin. This is 100% refundable up until the final payment date of August 30, 2010. If you want to sign up for this great cruise please contact Marcy Brown at Zenith Travel, Altamonte Springs, Florida or (407) 862-1313 or (800) 336-5355. You can fax the enclosed form to get started. Or, give me a call at (863) 427-1394. Dave 'Doc'

Cruise Flyer

4/9/2009 By
Sgt. Eric C. Schwartz,
Regimental Combat Team 8

   Room clearing in an urban environment is dangerous. Marines have trained extensively on this subject, applying lessons learned from tough battles in such places as Seoul during the Korean War, Hue in Vietnam, and most recently, Fallujah, Iraq. Now the Marine Corps wants to make sure its Iraqi Army brethren are skilled in close quarters battle as well.
    To that end, Reconnaissance Marines with 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, have been training Iraqi commandos with the 7th Iraqi Army Division on fundamental infantry tactics during a month-long training evolution. As part of the course, the Recon Marines started honing the Iraqis’ room-clearing skills.
    “I was very impressed with today,” said Sgt. Aaron Tenorio, a team leader with 1st Recon. “Some definitely grasp the concepts we’re teaching and others it takes a bit more time.”
    Tenorio related their learning ability to a group of new Marines, explaining that some will excel and some will be average learners, while others will have a hard time.
    The Marines started with the basics of room clearing by showing the commandos the proper way to clear a four-corner room. After instruction, pairs of Iraqi soldiers demonstrated what they learned while the Marines observed and critiqued each performance.
    “They’re moving too fast,” Tenorio told the interpreter. “Their hands are bobbing up and down. He didn’t check this corner properly.”
    The interpreter would relay the information in Arabic to the soldiers and they would start again, and again—and again. Even with the constant critiques from their instructors, the Iraqis showed improvement without frustration.
    “They get this but with anything, practicing will help them remember it,” Tenorio said.
    Each time the Iraqis separated off to clear a room, a critique was made. Sometimes the Marines would use hand gestures and repetitive words to help the Iraqis understand if the interpreter was busy with another group.
    “The biggest problem we have here is the language barrier,” said Cpl. Kacey Butcher, a radio operator with 1st Recon.
    Although the teachers and students spoke different languages, the commandos understood they needed to learn and the Marines understood they needed to teach.
    “Overall, their discipline is good and their officers are locked-on,” Butcher said. “The more they work with Marines, the more disciplined they become.”
    After two-man room clearing, they later advanced up to five-man room clearing and detainee handling.
    “They’re doing very good for their first day doing room clearing,” Butcher said.
    As the day progressed, the commandos who learned quickly began making slight critiques to their soldiers on things they need to work on or were doing wrong.
    “These Marines are very well trained,” said Iraqi Army Lt. Ali Adelkhalef, 2nd platoon commander, 1st Battalion, 7th IA Division. “Everything we’ve learned is very useful and my soldiers have learned a lot.”
    “I’ve learned a lot during this month and I want to teach my soldiers how to do this like the Marines,” said Iraqi Army Lance Cpl. Barra Ishmael Ahmed, a commando with 3rd platoon, 3rd Battalion, 7th IA Division.
    The legacy of house-to-house fighting by Marines has been hard fought and earned through battles in history and in-depth training. Using what these commandos have learned and through continuous training, they may, one day, create their own legacy as an elite Iraqi Army unit.

Touch-and-go: 1st Recon Marines teach LZ drills to Iraqi commandos
4/14/2009 By
Sgt. Eric C. Schwartz,
Regimental Combat Team 8

    Dust whipped through the air, blinding anyone looking ahead as the Super Stallions touched down and opened their back hatches. Iraqi commandos poured out in single formation, running to establish two separate 360-degree cordons.
   Adding the finishing touch to a month-long Multi National Forces- West training package, Iraqi Commandos with the 7th Iraqi Army Division were taught how to properly embark and disembark CH-53E helicopters April 9, 2009 at the Camp Ripper landing zone, Camp Ripper, Iraq. Instruction was given by Reconnaissance Marines with 2nd platoon, Company B, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8 on the training evolution.
    “It was the first time I’ve ever been in a chopper,” said Iraqi Army Sgt. Omar Muhammed Salem, an Iraqi Army commando with 1st platoon, 2nd Battalion, 7th Iraqi Army Division.
    Out of the entire company of Iraqi commandos, only four raised their hands when asked if any had ever flown in a helicopter prior to the training flights. Out of those four, none had ever flown as Iraqi commandos.
    “A lot of this is introduction to more advanced (training),” said 1st Lt. Scott Alexander, 2nd platoon commander, Company B, 1st Recon.
    Although the commandos practiced only rudimentary air assault movements today, each separate company will eventually train in more advanced special forces tactics.
    “The more advanced training will give them more ability to go out with us for bi-lateral missions,” Alexander said.
    The commandos have successfully completed operations on par with regular infantrymen, but these men are being educated in the art of reconnaissance and special operations.
    “Right now there are no Iraqi units that match Recon’s capabilities,” Alexander said. “They’re a capable infantry unit but we want to build them up to our caliber.”
    This month-long package is only the beginning. Military Transition Team 07, Multi National Force - West, plans on furthering commando education with the help from the Recon Marines. With instructors like the Marines and eager students like the Iraqi commandos, it will be a goal completed.
    “The MiTT team wants Iraqi special forces at a level where they can be self-sufficient,” said Robert Wise, a special operations foreign internal defense advisor for MiTT-7.
    This effort is a joint-decision, derived from the Iraqi commandos’ suggestions for training and MiTT-7 requested instruction from 1st Recon.
    “All of this training is Iraqi requested,” Alexander said. “They also asked for advanced training.”
    In the near future, the Iraqi commandos and reconnaissance Marines will refine helicopter operations and aerial assaults, along with sniper training.
    “They want to get into sniper operations,” Alexander said. “They have actual sniper teams but we’re going to give them the training and discipline expected from Marine snipers.”
    The Iraqi commandos have a bright future ahead of them and along with the tutelage given by the reconnaissance Marines, training will intensify but they will be refined into a more capable fighting force.

Recon Challenge pushes teams to the limit

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday May 27, 2009 8:42:14 EDT


    The finish line was less than a football field away. Exhausted, Sgt. Paul Peters and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Alex Nielson knew they had to cover the distance carrying three 25-pound water jugs along with nearly 70 pounds of gear required for the inaugural Recon Challenge, a timed 23-mile test of wills held May 9 at Camp Pendleton. It wouldn’t be easy.
   “It just kept stretching on and on,” Nielson said of the course. “I just wanted it to be over.”
  Hosted by Advanced Infantry Battalion’s Reconnaissance Training Company, Recon Challenge pitted a dozen two-man teams — the foundation of any reconnaissance unit — in a half-dozen events that included running, climbing, swimming and marksmanship. Instructors created the competition, they said, to determine the Corps’ best recon team.
  “We want to see who the tough guys are,” said Sgt. Paul Light, a recon instructor.
  By the end, Peters, 20, and Nielson, 22, were well in front of their nearest opponents, so they paused to catch their breath before making the final push. Minutes later, they claimed first-place honors.
  The men, members of 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion in Japan, completed the race in 12 hours, 33 minutes and 16 seconds — more than 36 minutes ahead of the runners-up. Each earned a Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal and a coveted handmade recon paddle.
  Peters and Nielson never doubted they would finish the race, although during that final pause, Peters admitted he wasn’t sure where the finish was.
  “Toward the end,” he said, “we thought it was a lot closer, but it turned out to be three or four or five miles.”
  The contest began at 2:30 a.m. with a mandatory swim safety check in the Area 53 combat pool. With the clock ticking, teams then knocked out a six-mile hike to the San Onofre beach, where they donned wetsuits and fins and hustled into the chilly Pacific for a 2,000-yard swim.
  Once out of the water, the competitors jumped into their desert boots and camouflage to attack an obstacle course at Camp Horno. A small crowd gathered to watch as Peters and Nielson emerged from the hills above, removed their packs and went to work.
  As instructors evaluated them, the pair dropped to their knees to disassemble two M4 rifles and then took off for a run through the obstacles, only to return moments later and reassemble the weapons. The disassembly/assembly task isn’t difficult — who hasn’t claimed they can do it blindfolded? — but the event is designed to test whether it can be done while the Marines are tired and sore.
  Toward the end of the race, competitors tested their accuracy on the rifle, pistol and grenade ranges. Missed targets tacked on minutes to their time. They could get that time back only by correctly recalling observations from earlier scenarios.
  Sound diabolical? That’s by design. Organizers created a course to test skills and strengths — both mental and physical.
  “No one was going to say, ‘Wow, that ... was easy,’” Light said.
  Maj. Ben Pappas, the company commander, put it this way: “A lot of things that we do are difficult, tiring. They are filled with friction and uncertainty. This is a way we can see their skills and assess” them.
  Both men in each team had to complete all events and finish together. For Peters and Nielson, that meant constant communication as they dove into the surf or scrambled up steep hills.
  “We were always checking on each other. ‘Are you OK? Cramping? You ought to eat something,’” Peters said.
  Teams covered 4,000 feet of elevation in Pendleton’s coastal hills, including the notorious “Recon Ridge” — which some call the “trail of tears.” More than 40 corpsmen were scattered along the course, many waiting at aid stations to check competitors for injuries. A few teams voluntarily dropped out, and medical personnel pulled the plug on at least one other. That’s not always the easiest call to make with a group of hard-charging, Type-A personalities.
  In the end, eight of the 12 teams that began the race managed to finish it. Next year, officials hope to tweak the course and possibly open it to nonrecon Marines.
  Back at the obstacle course, Gunnery Sgt. Christopher May and teammate Sgt. Steven Goodnight, from Pendleton’s 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, were cheered on by May’s wife and two children. At the final log obstacle, May paused and marveled at how it felt to sit “for the first time in 10 hours.”
  “I’m just so proud of him. He looked good,” his wife, Kathy, said after the event. “I knew he’d be the oldest — he’s 35 — but he got really excited” about the race. “I made him spaghetti the other night, told him to eat lots of carbohydrates.”
  Apparently, the robust meal made quite a difference. May and Goodnight finished third overall.
  “He’s got such a sense of pride for getting it done,” she said.The finishers
Eight of the 12 two-man teams that began the inaugural “Recon Challenge” at Camp Pendleton, Calif., made it to the finish line. They are:

1st place
Sgt. Paul A. Peters and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Alex J. Nielson
3rd Recon Battalion, Okinawa, Japan
Time: 12 hours, 33 minutes, 16 seconds
2nd place
Sgt. Caleb M. Medley and Sgt. Mark E. Rawson
1st Recon Battalion, Camp Pendleton
Time: 13:09:40
3rd place
Gunnery Sgt. Christopher L. May and Sgt. Steven E. Goodnight
1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, Camp Pendleton
Time: 13:25:01
4th place
Sgt. Adam J. Haley and Sgt. Michael J. Vargas
3rd Recon Battalion
Time: 13:35:25
5th place
Maj. John J. Miles and Cpl. Brian A. Robinson
4th Recon Battalion, San Antonio, Texas.
Time: 14:11:38
6th place
Gunnery Sgt. Jed M. Owen
1st Marine Special Operations Battalion
Capt. John R. Collins
1st Recon Battalion
Time: 14:23:03
7th place
Sgt. Stephen W. Moreland and Sgt. Brian W. Robertson
4th Recon Battalion
Time: 14:36:00
8th place
Sgt. Adam R. Sorensen and Sgt. Michael L. James
1st Recon Battalion
Time: 14:40:20

Recon-improvement plan pays off for Corps
By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jun 22, 2009 7:00:46 EDTCAMP PENDLETON, Calif.

  They endured countless hours of swimming and finning in the combat pool and then in the open, cold ocean.
  They covered miles with heavy combat packs over steep hills and sandy beaches. They fought strong ocean currents and big swells to drive and navigate their rubber boats.
  In this class of newly trained and longtime infantrymen, all dreaming of becoming reconnaissance Marines, many questioned whether they had the grit to complete the grueling course.
  So they were especially proud to step onto the School of Infantry-West parade deck June 12 for graduation ceremonies from the Marine Corps’ Basic Reconnaissance Course, after nine weeks of training by Reconnaissance Training Company. The Marines survived the course and earned the coveted title and 0321 military occupational specialty of a recon Marine.
  The high tempo at the course reflects some of the successes in the Corps’ effort to rebuild and reshape its reconnaissance community, positioning it for ongoing wars and future combat operations. Known simply as “Fix Recon,” the effort to grow and evolve the Corps’ capability has been ongoing for a decade, but it may be finally drawing to a close.
  The men of Class 05-09 are the Corps’ newest group of trained reconnaissance Marines and soon will report to an active-duty or reserve recon unit. About 600 Marines, and a few dozen Navy corpsmen, will graduate from the course this year — roughly 120 Marines won’t make it — entering a community that has grown exponentially since the war in Afghanistan began.

Fixing Recon

In 2001, the Corps had roughly 550 billets for reconnaissance Marines. Today, that number has tripled and keeps growing, with the fiscal 2009 requirement for active-duty units at about 2,038, said Maj. Brian Gilman, the 0321 occupational field manager at Plans, Policies and Operations branch in Washington.
  He said that figure is expected to increase slightly by 2012 as part of an initiative aimed at the Corps’ force reconnaissance capabilities and units.
  “Fix Recon” began with a 1999 directive by then-Commandant Gen. James L. Jones to look at equipment, manning, training and other issues. After Sept. 11, deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq followed, along with the birth of Marine Corps Special Operations Command and the Corps’ growth to 202,000.
  “There has been a lot of changes since ‘Fix Recon’ happened,” Gilman said. “We’ve had to adjust to that.”
  Continual deployments meant more demands on recon and concerns about capacity issues, he said. Standing up MarSOC, for instance, shifted 26 percent of those assets away from the Marine expeditionary forces.
  High retention has helped keep the Corps rolling. New recruiting initiatives — such as an upcoming program beginning in October that gives new recon Marines five-year orders so they can spend more operational time with their unit — should buy even more time.
  The recon community is shaping up. The “Fix Recon” initiative is in the third and final implementation phase, as officials work on an assessment of ground recon capabilities for the Marine air-ground task force, a study that looks at capabilities the Corps will need 10 years from now.
  The Marine Requirements Oversight Council is expected to get the initial capabilities document in September, he added.
  Consolidated training
The health of the recon community hinges greatly on pulling enough well-trained men into the recon pipeline. One big change began two years ago, when the Corps decided to merge the East Coast-based Amphibious Reconnaissance School and the West Coast-based BRC into a single course at Camp Pendleton, housed at SOI-West under its Advanced Infantry Training Battalion.
  Centralizing training at one location meant operational recon battalions no longer had to recruit and screen future recon Marines, enabling them to focus on training, preparing and deploying platoons overseas.
  “We took that burden off of them,” Gilman said.
  The Corps now has a single training syllabus and, officials note, a more consistent training pipeline for all recon Marines — whether active duty or reserve, or filling a billet at division recon, Force reconnaissance companies or MarSOC’s special operations companies.
  “Standardization of training was definitely one of those concerns,” Gilman said.
  At Camp Pendleton, the recon growth is perhaps felt most at SOI-West, where its Recon Training Company will train and graduate eight classes this fiscal year and where instructors are preparing to ramp up with a ninth class in 2010. In mid-June, the company was “triple stacked,” with three classes on deck as Class 05-09 headed into its final week.
  It’s usually busy, as new students wait to begin their class while others spend weeks or months with one of the platoons, preparing themselves to meet the tough physical fitness standards to successfully screen for the course.
  Newly graduated Marines assigned the 0321 MOS report to their recon unit ready for follow-on individual and unit-level training ahead of deploying, a benefit their operational units appreciate, said Col. Brennan Byrne, who commands SOI-West.
  “The guy gets to the unit a vetted recon Marine,” Byrne said. “We’ve increased the operational deployability numbers. He will be a full-up round.”
  The recon training pipeline will likely be expanded to include a Recon Team Leaders Course, which SOI officials hope to begin this fall with four classes each fiscal year, and eventually other courses for unit leaders.
  “We now have the opportunity to train the force as you wish to see the force,” Byrne said.
  Standards remain tough
While the syllabus has been tweaked, Byrne said, the standards have not been reduced.
  “We’ve actually increased standards in a number of areas,” he said. “We’re taking the approach that we are building the basic recon Marine, we are building the team leader, and we are building the unit leader.”
  Students must score at least 225 on the Physical Fitness Test by training day 21, get at least a first-class water safety qualification to graduate, and meet the standard for a 1-kilometer ocean swim and 8-mile hikes with 50-pound packs, among other requirements.
  About three-quarters of BRC students are entry level Marines — recent infantry school graduates — and about one-quarter are junior Marines, including corporals and sergeants from noninfantry MOSs. Handfuls of Navy corpsmen hoping to become amphibious reconnaissance corpsmen also attend.
  BRC graduation rates now average about 80 percent, a big improvement from the roughly 50 percent who graduated from the courses years ago. Instructors and leaders give much credit to their local initiative — Marines Awaiting Recon Training, or MART — created to prepare and mentor Marines and sailors readying to join a new BRC class or those students recovering from an injury or illness.
  Despite the name, “It’s not a basic skills set. It is an advanced skill set,” said Capt. James Richardson, Reconnaissance Training Company commander. “You expect more from a reconnaissance Marine.”
  So the Marines — many are privates first class, instructors noted — soon find out that more is expected of them from the get-go.
  “They are calling in live-fire mortars in this course,” Richardson said. “That’s unheard of. Most men in the infantry, they’re probably corporals or sergeants before they get this opportunity.”
  The training isn’t for the faint of heart. Even the third phase, which includes operating boats in the surf zone, can be taxing, sending at least one student in each class to the corpsman or the hospital.
  Recon Marines, Richardson notes, will have greater responsibilities. One day, that recon Marine will be a team leader briefing a Marine expeditionary unit commander.
  “He is absolutely responsible for that mission,” said Capt. Bart Lambert, BRC officer-in-charge. “Preparing him for that, that’s the goal.”
  So the company established MART Platoon so students can improve their fitness levels before beginning the course. It works — about 90 percent in MART graduate from the course.
  The platoon can tailor the training to help students with anything, even tying knots, said Richardson, who calls its four instructors the “unsung heroes.”
  Many students, said chief instructor Sgt. Lynn Westover, don’t have enough strength and endurance for the long runs with heavy packs and often struggle to swim with combat gear and fins longer than two kilometers. The water piece is a tough nut to crack, instructors say.
  Several Marines said the extra MART training and mentoring are huge.
  “The instructors got us into shape. ... They encourage you,” said Lance Cpl. Gary Manders, 19, who improved his swim during three months at MART and saw his PFT score jump from 220 to 276.
  Lambert said that BRC classes have averaged 260 by the training day 21, and recent classes hit 275. Three students tallied course records in the run (17:05), crunches (160) and pull-ups (45), he added.
  “I didn’t know what I was getting into,” Manders said. “I was weak in all areas, especially the water.”
  THINK YOU’VE GOT WHAT IT TAKES? Considering a move to reconnaissance? Here’s what you need to know:
  Getting in the door To obtain the coveted 0321 military occupational specialty, Marines must graduate from the Basic Recon Course, taught at the School of Infantry-West’s Recon Training Company, Camp Pendleton, Calif. To get there, you must be a U.S. citizen fluent in English and meet a handful of other requirements, including:

• Score 105 or higher on your General Technical test.

• Have completed Infantry Training Battalion course, for enlisted Marines.

• Have a 3rd Class swim qualification. (You will have to reach 1st Class by the end of Phase 1.)

• Score at least 200 on your physical fitness test. (You will need a first-class score of at least 225 during Phase 1.)

• Have normal color vision and good eyesight — at least 20/200.

Once you’re there
The nine-week BRC has three phases:

• Phase 1. Four weeks. Focuses on a wealth of individual skills, including swimming, finning, rucksack hiking, land navigation, helicopter rope suspension training, communications and supporting arms.

• Phase 2. Three weeks. Focuses on combat patrolling with a mix of classroom and field training, including a nine-day exercise in full mission profiles.

• Phase 3. Two weeks. Held in Coronado, Calif. Focuses on amphibious reconnaissance, boat operations and nautical navigation.

Where you’ll go
Recon billets at Marine operational units include:

• 1st Recon Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton.

• Force Recon Company, 1st Recon Battalion.

• 2nd Recon Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

• Force Company, 2nd Recon Battalion.

• 3rd Recon Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, Okinawa, Japan.

• 4th Recon Battalion (reserve), San Antonio, Texas.

• 3rd Force Recon Company (reserve), Mobile, Ala.

• 4th Force Recon Company (reserve), Alameda, Calif.

• Marine Corps Special Operations Command.

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

JULY 2009 PART 1 OF 2

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