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Marines participating in the Division School's Urban Leaders Course move from one building to another while carrying a casualty during a squad tactics exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 9, 2014. The Marines were conducting a patrol when they received contact from instructors posing as enemies. The exercise included roadside bomb simulations, gas drills and patrols that tested the Marines' proficiency in urban combat tactics. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Silvano/released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. David Silvano

Marines hone leadership skills in the Division Schools Urban Leader’s Course

17 Apr 2014 | Lance Cpl. David Silvano

The sun beat down on the Marines, already gasping from beneath their gas masks. Their bodies, wrapped in flak jackets and Kevlar helmets, were like tanks in armor trudging through the dirt roads and dark buildings of the Urban Operations town toward the objective. They moved with a sense of purpose, not stopping to catch their breath or raise a complaint. This was the scene at the Division Schools Urban Leader’s Course aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 9, 2014.

The Marines conducted a three-day operation that was designed to test the skills they gained over the past three weeks of the course. This cumulative event simulated a deployed environment and included raids, urban combat drills, roadside bomb simulations and gas drills among other events. The course’s purpose was to teach small-unit leaders the fundamentals of urban combat tactics while building leadership skills in the process.

“We’re trying to get them to be team leaders, and think about how they are going to conduct raids,” said Staff Sgt. David Densley, the operations chief for the course. “We start off at a very basic level and continue to improve their skills from there.”

Most of the students taking the course are non-commissioned officers and are already leaders in their individual units, said Densley, a native of Salt Lake City. The point of the training is to make them better leaders and show them how to conduct urban combat tactics so they can pass that knowledge to their junior Marines and peers.

Instructors and students alike agreed these skills are important for Marines to have now, more than ever. Without the knowledge from courses like the Urban Leader’s Course, lives could be lost on the battlefield.

“These days in the modern battlefield it’s becoming more and more common for us to find ourselves fighting in cities and villages instead of fields and hills,” said Lance Cpl.  Joshua Brumage, a squad leader with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. “It’s important that this kind of training is happening so we know what we’re doing  when we’re out there and Marines’ lives are on the line.”

The pace of the course was fast at times, but Marines like Brumage said that’s why it’s a good simulation of a deployed environment.

“It’s turned into a one-hundred percent tactical environment,” said Brumage, a native of Keedysville, Md. “There are no breaks from doing your job. You do a mission and return to your patrol base to stand post and provide security.”

During the three weeks, the Marines were trained how to operate in an urban environment. They started out with basic reloading drills and room clearing, and by the end of the course they were able to clear entire villages.

Marines practiced speed reloading, received classes on individual skills such as weapons training and gear setup, and spent time on the range practicing urban combat techniques. It was a drastic transformation, but the students caught on quickly and were able to adapt and overcome the obstacles the instructors threw at them.

“So far they’ve been doing pretty good,” Densley said. “We have a mix of engineers and infantrymen and both groups have improved a lot and are shining out here.”

The Division Schools Urban Leader’s Course doesn’t just create good infantrymen, it creates good leaders. With the knowledge and skills the students have gained, the Marine Corps will have no shortage of excellent leaders.