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Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Kevin Thompson, squad leader, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, prepares to drop an 81 millimeter mortar round into the mortar tube aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., September 21. He and his fellow Marines were participating in the Infantry Mortar Leaders Course.

Photo by Cpl. Johnny Merkley

Behind the Gun Lines

21 Sep 2011 | Cpl. Johnny Merkley

Experienced Marines can sometimes be placed in leadership billets regardless of their rank or time in service. This is especially true in the infantry where even lance corporals can be in charge of an entire squad.

The Infantry Mortar Leaders Course held aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., trains Marines of any rank to be proficient leaders within a mortar platoon.

“The important aspect of this course is that the Marines will have the tools that they need to lead when it’s all said and done,” said Staff Sgt. Dennis Leaves, Infantry Mortar Leader Course Instructor, School Of Infantry East. “Mortars and indirect fire support are some of a battalion’s biggest assets during a fire fight. These Marines learn how to lead and control that fire support so they can help their fellow Marines taking enemy contact.”

The course is a nine-week package that not only covers information from the basic mortarman course, but also teaches valuable leadership skills such as calling in for mortar support and calculating data for mortar gun lines.

“Mortar fire is dropped all the time in Afghanistan. The Marines here are learning how to call it in and how to receive the calls for fire,” said Sgt. Shawon Burgess, IMLC Instructor, SOI East. “That’s what this course prepares them for and that’s the kind of stuff they’ll be doing when they go back to their units.”

The course was designed to train mortarman to become leaders within their platoons, whether it be a squad leader or platoon commander. The course provides the resources for the lower enlisted ranks as well as field grade officers.

“The lessons taught in this course are very important for a platoon commander to understand,” said 1st Lt. Joseph Murphy, 81mm mortar platoon commander, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. “This information is just as important for me to know as it is for my Marines.”

For the Marines going through the course, the final examination comes at the end of the nine weeks when the Marines must put the knowledge and information they’ve learned to test. They conducted a field operation with live mortar fire while applying the information and being evaluated by the instructors.

Although many of the Marines have been to combat zones and already have great leadership experience and capability, many of the students still expressed how valuable the course was to them and how the knowledge they gained throughout the nine weeks is vital to their success.

“You learn so much more here that wasn’t covered at the basic school. It’s more in-depth and more detailed,” said Sgt. Timothy Hardy, mortarman section leader, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, 4th Marine Division. “I definitely feel more confident than I did before about going out and leading a mortar section. This course really helped me out.”