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Small platoon takes on big challenge for RCT-1

15 Apr 2004 | Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

It's easy to feel safe when you've thousands of Marines ready to come to your defense.  The commander of Regimental Combat Team 1, though, has a few more reasons than the average Marine, however.

Marines from 1st Tank Battalion's Scout Platoon took on the extra duty of providing direct security for Col. John A. Toolan, RCT-1's commanding officer.  It's a high-profile role for a small unit that makes it look easy.

"It's like doing a combat patrol everyday, but we escort a very important man," said 1st Lt. Travis D. Carlson, the platoon commander for Scout Platoon, 1st Tank Battalion based out of Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. "We will ensure the safety of the colonel wherever he wants to go."

Carlson and his charges have had their share of combat.  They've seen it all - random mortar attacks and brief scuffles - battling back the enemy during convoys.

"Just a few days ago we were ambushed," Carlson said of a recent rocket-propelled grenade attack. "It was a solid meeting between RPGs and machine gun fire tied in with an obstacle, but we got the colonel out of there."

The security detail also ends up serving as a reconnaissance element of sorts.  The information they gather is passed on to operators planning and executing missions.  They also push out supplies and even mail when they get the chance.

"We're constantly disseminating concerns and requests from the junior Marines on the front lines like mail, chow and water," said Chief Warrant Officer-3 Marine Gunner Robert M. Brooks, the regiment's infantry weapons officer.  "It's definitely a busy job."

The challenge is demanding and Marines assigned to the team are personally selected for the duty.

"Every Marine in Scout Platoon is handpicked," said Sgt. Johntaey Schmuck, a Scout Platoon team leader.

"Yeah, we pretty much get who we want," interjected Cpl. Michael T. DeBolt, a who started out shooting TOW missiles.

Schmuck explained the team recruits from within the battalion as well as straight from the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton.

Because there are only two active-duty Scout Platoons Corps-wide, DeBolt said Scouts have unofficially become a small and elite community.

"The other platoon is at Camp Lejuene, but we're a tight unit," added DeBolt, who's been a Scout for two years.

Carlson said most of his 30-plus Marines are on their second and third tours in the Middle East and continue to serve in the platoon because of their devotion to their craft.  It's a tradition he doesn't see going away soon.

"I have a handpicked group of Marines that routinely perform their duties in an exemplary manner," said Carlson.