Your life at Recon Battalion is basically broken down into phases. This, of course, is once you’re an operational member of a team. And, with the current level of combat deployments, this “phase” system is not always in place. Of course, when guys aren’t sweating it out training for war, there’s plenty of time off. And, as the saying goes, “train hard, play hard”! And, throughout all phases, PT is a daily activity. Here’s a break down of the phases of life at Recon.
This is the time period where a recon platoon is put together and all of the billets and slots are filled. Pretty much a purgatory type waiting game. As guys rotate back from deployments, they get shifted around to make sure that the experience is spread throughout the unit. So, there might only be 1 or 2 teams for a bit while waiting for back fill. When I was in Bn, we actually didn’t have a Platoon Commander for a few months (not always a bad thing!).
But don’t kid yourself, this is not just sitting around and chillin’, there’s still constant training and lots of PT. Once the platoon reaches an operational level, it’s balls to the wall … constant training. The nice part about this phase is that the platoon is pretty much autonomous and not attached to directly support anyone. This means training is decided by the teams. It’s not uncommon for teams to be in the bush for upwards of 20 days a month. Listed below are some of the missions that Recon Battalion Marines train on.
- Area Reconnaissance
- Route Reconnaissance
- Landing Zone Reports
- Ford Reports
- Hydrographic Surveys
- Small Scale Raids and Ambushes
- Pre-Raid Reconnaissance
- Battle Damage Assessments
- ITG (Initial Terminal Guidance) of Rotary Wing Aircraft
- Drop Zone Reports
The teams also need to be able to get to “work.” Here’s some of the insertion/extraction techniques utilized by Recon Battalion.
- Static Line Parachute Insert
- HAHO (High Altitude/High Opening) Static Line Parachute Insert
- CRRC (Combat Rubber Raiding Craft aka Zodiac) Inserts
- Helo Casting (Soft Duck when Zodiac is used)
- Water Landing Parachute Insert (Rubber Duck when Zodiac is used)
- Over the Horizon CRRC Inserts
- SPIE Rigging
- Fast Roping
- Closed Circuit Diving (Rebreather)
All right, the platoon is fully formed and guys are starting to work well together. Now, there’s a few months set aside for formal military schooling. Recon has recently implemented more of a training pipeline, so this phase is now dedicated to special skills schools. With this new pipeline, most team members have already attended Amphibious Reconnaissance School, Airborne, Combatant Dive and SERE. Listed below are just some of the schools that recon Marines assigned to Bn can attend.
- USMC Scout/Sniper School
- USMC Advanced Sniper Course
- USMC Assault Climber Course
- Jump Master School
- Dive Supervisor Course
- HRST Master Course
- US Army Ranger School
- Various Foreign Special Operations Courses
After schools phase, the platoon is again back to training and preparing to be “chopped” to the MEU for deployment. The eval phase is where every team is evaluated by experienced Recon Marines as to their combat effectiveness and mission readiness. The final eval missions are full mission profile operations that closely mimic what the platoon can expect to encounter on deployment. Every team is required to get a “blessing” prior to getting formally assigned to the MEU.
This is when the platoon is officially assigned to the MEU and now works directly for that command (MEU, Division, or the Battalion Landing Team). Training now becomes large scale operations as opposed to just individual team or platoon training. Recon teams will insert and conduct operations in direct support of the larger Marine Infantry units, and fine tuning their skills as part of a larger operation. This phase includes a three week prep float on a Naval ship where all missions are launched from the amphibious platform.
Deployments can vary depending on the needs of the Marine Corps and the current world situation. These can be a 6-8 month combat deployment to a current hot zone or a float, which is a 6 month cruise on an all-inclusive US Navy Ship. When on float, you can literally end up anywhere in the world if something erupts. Plus, with floats, you get some serious libo at some pretty cool ports.
Rinse … Repeat
The phases usually last about 2-3 years to cycle through. Once guys have finished their full cycle, most rotate back to form a new platoon and become Team Leaders to pass on the knowledge they’ve learned.
All in all, being an operational team member with Recon Battalion is a great life … if you like being constantly wet, tired and cold! But, you will train constantly and hang with some of the best warriors in the Marine Corps.