MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - -- Specifically designed to train Marines in numerous combat engineer missions, the Sappers Leadership Course also provides the knowledge and motivation to train junior Marines.
After three weeks of intense physical and mental training, 34 Marines earned the right to call themselves Sappers by completing the course here June 3.
Waelder, Texas native, Lance Cpl. William S. Parsonage, a combat engineer with Charlie Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, completed the course with the highest overall average of 95.04. As the honor graduate, he received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
“The day the course began, I went up on a meritorious Lance Corporal board and got it. Now, here I am receiving an award the day the course is over. The past few weeks have turned out to be pretty decent for me,” said Parsonage.
As the chief instructor, Staff Sgt. Brian K. Lee, 2nd CEB, oversaw every aspect of the training that class 2-05 received. He too went through the very same course as a Sergeant in 1999.
“An engineer is sort of like a jack of all trades. This course is designed to fine tune their knowledge of the job,” said Lee.
The training Parsonage received will only further prepare him for deployment to Iraq with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment this July.
“The class on expedient urban demolition was very informative. The instructors taught us how to make charges, which would then be used to blow down doors and breach houses in a combat situation,” said Parsonage.
Not only did the course participants have to possess a certain amount of maturity and leadership skills, they also had to score no less than a 1st class on their physical fitness test, said Lee.
“The PT broke you down and pushed you beyond your limits daily. It was a rough three weeks, worse than boot camp even,” said Parsonage.
Included in the physical fitness program was a six-mile pack run directly followed by a night infiltration course, a combat obstacle course and snake PT.
“We woke up the snakes (wooden logs) before every meal. Curls, bench press, squats, sit-ups; basically any exercises the instructors could come up with. After the snake party, a 30 ft. rope climb was the only thing that stood between us and chow,” said Parsonage.
By pushing students both mentally and physically each day, the course ensures that its graduates can uphold the Sappers creed of always being able to overcome insurmountable odds to complete the mission regardless of available assets.
“When Marines first start the course, they are often somewhat timid and unsure of what to expect. But, by the time they reach the final three-day exercise, they have grown as both Marines and combat engineers,” said Lee.