CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Until recently, the Fleet Marine Force Warfare qualification was only open to the enlisted ranks of the United States Navy. That all changed when the Navy approved a program, in July 2005, that allows Navy officers to get their own qualification.
Navy Lieutenants Teddy L. Williams, the battalion chaplain, and Mark G. Banks, the battalion surgeon, both with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, were the first two naval officers in the 2nd Marine Division to have passed the qualification.
“We are both proud and honored to be able to go through the process,” said Williams, a Jacksonville, N.C., native.
“It gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment to know that we were the first two and that we did it together,” Banks added.
For Navy officers who decide to work toward qualification, they will be indoctrinated into the basics of Marine Corps officer knowledge. The officer qualification follows the same basic structure as the enlisted qualification and differs only in that they focus on broad-based knowledge.
Learning about the history, structure and mission of the Marine Corps is one of the primary goals. Williams and Banks also had to learn about Marine Corps weapons systems, land navigation techniques and basic communication skills using Marine Corps gear.
Williams and Banks also had pass a Marine Corps’ physical fitness test, which includes a three mile run, pull-ups and crunches, as well as complete a six-mile hump with a standard combat load and conduct the annual gas chamber qualification. Banks had to qualify on the M16A2 service rifle but since Williams is a chaplain he didn’t. Chaplains do not have to complete this requirement.
“Regimental Combat Team 8 provided us with professional military education classes at the artillery battery, the tank battalion and the helicopter squadron to make studying a little more hands on,” stated Banks, a Savannah, Ga, native.
Williams and Banks started working on the requirements back in July; right after the program was approved. It took them six months of reading and studying during their “down time” to complete the qualification. Any rest or relaxation the two could have had during their combat deployment was sacrificed in order to achieve their qualification.
The testing of their studies was an hour and a half long board in which two senior Navy and three senior Marine Corps officers asked them questions on the material required for the qualification. They both passed their boards on Jan. 3.
In 2001, when the program was just starting to be put down on paper, Williams was there starting the ground work for the chaplain portion of the program. Currently it is the only qualification that chaplains are allowed to pursue.
“I was able to see this qualification go from just an idea to reality and now to be the first chaplain in the division to receive it is such a great honor,” William stated.
It is more than an honor for these to though.
“It gives us a better idea of what the battlefield that we are supporting looks like and how the unit we work with functions,” Banks said.
There is no doubt that these two sailors have contributed greatly to maintaining the integrity of the Navy-Marine Corps team.
“It makes you feel like you are more of an integrated part of the unit and not a separate entity outside it,” Williams added.