MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The Scout Reconnaissance and Surveillance Platoon, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, is known for taking on some hefty tasks, but for this platoon, gaining a hefty roster is posing a new challenge on top of an already hectic schedule.
Later this summer, the scouts will deploy for a fourth time in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Instead of deploying with a typical platoon size of 25, Sgt. Matthew Chandler, assistant section leader, estimates nearly 70 Marines will top off the roster this time around.
“Our biggest responsibility right now is to train all these new guys and get them to meet our expectations,” said Chandler, a Dartmouth, Mass., native. “We have to get them spun up quickly, because we have to pump them out.”
Training to be a scout is no simple task. The 25 new members they have acquired since their return from Iraq in October must be trained in every element of combat, including land navigation, demolition, weapons systems, improvised explosive device detection and humvee operations, to name a few.
“It’s basically common skills on steroids,” said Chandler. “We’re working these guys pretty hard.”
Some of the newer scouts do not seem to mind the rough and rugged training schedule.
“This is the stuff we enjoy,” said Pfc. William T. Anderson, a machine gunner with the platoon. “It doesn’t seem like work when you get to (use up) a few hundred rounds down range.”
The central force holding the platoon together is a core of leadership and experience that proves to be the drive for these rising Marines. Two of the platoon’s more experienced scouts, Sgt. Daniel R. Langlois and Sgt. Nathan Ward, are currently developing a doctrine in scout reconnaissance for the Marine Corps.
“Our leadership has no problem sharing every bit of knowledge they have,” said Pfc. Jace M. Klibenski, a machine gunner with the platoon. “It helps the platoon really come together when we go into the field.”
The term “running ragged” is used loosely by platoon sergeant SSgt. Thomas W. Busch because of the various directions the platoon is being pulled. On top of all the training, the scouts are currently prepping for the battalion field exercise, in which they will train the rest of the battalion in various combat skills. The platoon will provide five to seven instructors for each of the exercises, including weapons training, patrolling, and land navigation.
The scouts believe operating under pressure with a high work rate is excellent preparation for combat.
“If you can handle stress back here, then you’ll have a much better tolerance for stress when you get down range,” said Chandler. “We need to be capable of doing any task. We’ll push-out for hours or days on patrol, searching for IEDs, clearing rooms; you name it. Whatever mission is handed to us, we can handle it.”
The push for non-stop training and a jam-packed schedule stems from the platoon’s leaders reflecting on previous deployments and recognizing what needs to be done to prepare.
“We had a heavy, heavy workload everyday,” said Chandler. “We took a lot of hits. But with the missions we accomplished and the amount of IEDs we found, we knew to keep pushing.”
As with any successful group of Marines, it is the leadership that takes a platoon to rising levels. The scouts attribute their status to their platoon commander, 1st Lt. Bryan J. Altieri.
“He is our biggest asset,” said Chandler. “He wants to be out there in the field with us. He’s the kind of platoon commander you always wish for, and I know the whole platoon feels that way.”
There is an anxiousness that looms over the platoon, waiting to take on its fourth deployment to Iraq. Though the anxiousness may differ between junior and senior Marines, when the time comes, they plan to be ready. Going in first and getting the job done is what these men are trained for and love to do. Rough and rugged and running ragged, it’s just another day for the scouts of 2nd Tank Battalion.