5/30/2012 By Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos , Marine Corps Base Quantico

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. — “For the first time in the training they’re the ones calling the shots. The pressure is all on them,” said Sgt. Jose Zepata, a combat instructor, Combat Instructor Company, The Basic School.

More than 200 Marines with Charlie Company, The Basic School, completed their final preparations for their convoy exercise at Landing Zone 7, May 25.

“It’s a lot different actually doing it hands on,” said 2nd Lt. Jonathan Bowman, a squad leader with Charlie Company, TBS. “Even though they’re not helping us, they’re there to make sure we are learning from the mistakes we make.”

Instructors closely observe and evaluate the student’s ability to brief his squad and how he manages them throughout the exercise.

“I’m looking for a lot of specific things like verbiage,” Zepata said. “It is so important that he is communicating clearly. If they’re not all on the same page that could cause serious harm to themselves and ultimately the mission is never accomplished.”

One thing that has helped the students along is learning from their instructors’ experiences, said Sgt. James Gray, warfighting Combat Instructor Company.

“We have a lot of experienced infantry men out here,” Gray said. “A lot of them are fresh off deployments, so these lieutenants are getting the most up-to-date experiences of what it’s like to lead a squad on a patrol.”

“Whenever I’m having trouble grasping a concept, these instructors always put it in a way that makes sense,” said 2nd Lt. Jerry Hamburger, Charlie Company.

As the training continued through the late afternoon, Bowman had some trouble making sure his squad was on the same page when it came to engaging enemies from the left or right.

“When they began to take simulated contact from the left his squad would immediately run on line instead of immediately returning some fire and then getting on line,” Zepata said. “In combat, you would never start blindly running toward immediate gun fire, that would get you killed and then you’re no good to your squad.”

“I’ve learned a lot from Sgt. Zepata,” Bowman said. “He’s not only helping me get through this exercise, but he’s setting me up for success for when I do lead my Marines in combat.”