Infantry Officer Students Experience Foreign Weapons

Fresh out of The Basic School’s Infantry Officer Course, a second lieutenant checks into his new battalion. He is assigned to his new company and is introduced to his new platoon of Marines.

With today’s high operational tempo, the lieutenant and his Marines are soon on their way to Iraq with a mission to accomplish.

There are many responsibilities and tasks a new platoon commander needs to prepare for when deploying to the front lines of the combat zone. IOC is designed to prepare the officers to assume duties as commanders of reconnaissance platoons within a reconnaissance company.

The course challenges the officer-students physically and mentally during simulated combat situations, skill training and classes to develop their abilities as leaders and decision-makers to be successful in the battlefield.

“It’s good training,” said 2nd Lt. Nathan Bibler, student with Co. K at The Basic School’s Officer Infantry Course. “I know that we are going to encounter these weapons when we deploy and the more we know about the enemy gives us the advantage.”

In order to prepare himself and his platoon for combat, an infantry officer must have a working understanding of potential threats, capabilities and limitations enemy threats bring to the battlefield, according to the introduction to the IOC class on threat arms and equipment.

“The class gives the officer-students a hands-on opportunity to familiarize themselves with some of the weapons they will face combat, and the opportunity to fire an AK-47 assault rifle,” said Capt. Todd Widman, the class advisor for IOC 2-07.

“The ability to recognize what weapons the enemy is using, how they operate and even what they sound like is extremely important for infantry officers to know, so they can teach the knowledge to their own Marines,” said Widman.

“Platoon commanders need to know what the weapon’s threat ring is its destructive capability when preparing and planning reconnaissance missions,” Widman said.

The larger the weapon, the larger the threat ring – vital information when planning reconnaissance routes and making changes if needed.

“Knowing what you are talking about is another reason for this training. There have been times when have I come across different weapon systems and had to report them to my commanders,” Widman said. “And I would have sounded like a fool if I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

The officer-students practice assembling and disassembling the AK-47, how to put it on and off safe, and how to properly clear the weapon before firing, allowing their chance to familiarize with the weapon.

“We really don’t care about how accurate they are with the AK-47,” Widman said. “We just want to make sure they know how to use it.”

“Marines are training Iraqis and Afghanis how to fight and shoot their weapons systems, primarily the AK-47,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert M. Brooks, the Marine gunner and infantry weapons officer at IOC. It’s important the officer students at least know how to use the weapon themselves so they can properly teach it to the Iraqis and Afghanis as well as their own Marines.

Some of the other weapons the officer-students to see and handle include the Romanian FPK sniper rifle, Soviet AK-74 assault rifle, Soviet RPK-74 assault rifle and rocket-propelled-grenade launchers.

“The AK-47 is the weapon system that is the primary threat in all third-world countries, and these officers are going to be facing this weapon wherever they go,” said Brooks.

IOC includes more than 800 hours of training packed into 48 days. The officer-students spend one day learning about foreign weapons and capabilities and getting the opportunity to shoot the AK-47.

Hopefully, the Marine Corps will develop a threat weapons school so every Marine, at least the non-commissioned officers, can go through some type of formal training, said Brooks. But for now, it’s imperative they take this knowledge with them and teach it to their Marines.

“It would be nice if we could spend three or four days teaching students about these weapons, but we just don’t have the time or the manpower,” said Brooks. “What we do here is better than nothing, and we have received feedback from former officer-students that has been positive.”