Welcome to week 4 of Platoon Leaders Course. Your candidate is well on their way to graduation, and you should be proud of what they’ve accomplished in their first three weeks of training.
Week 4 kicks off with physical readiness training. The Marine Corps uses physical fitness as a means of preparing Marines to withstand the rigors of combat. This week your candidate will go through two separate courses that will test them physically and mentally. The first of the two is the O-Course, a 100 meter long series of obstacles that must be completed in less than two minutes. Some of the obstacles include pulling themselves over bars, running down single and double logs, jumping over logs and more. The O-Course tests a candidate’s physical strength and ability to move swiftly through obstacles.
Next, candidates will go through an introduction to the E-Course. The Endurance Course is a grueling 3.27-mile PT event that eventually includes the O-Course that was previously completed. The course is conducted in full Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform, while carrying a load bearing vest and rifle. For this first round candidates will simply learn the route, techniques, and understand the penalties and violations. In order to graduate, candidates will be required to pass this event within the next few weeks.
About half way through the week, candidates will go through another Small Unit Leadership Evaluation (SULE). Your candidate has experienced a SULE before, but with each event introduces a new challenge. SULEs are designed to evaluate a candidate’s mental, moral, physical, and leadership development. For many, the SULE pushes candidates to their limits of mental, physical, and emotional endurance; SULE demonstrates that they are capable of much more than they previously believed. During a SULE, they will carry their rifle, pack and other gear through the woods in groups of 10-15. They will then take turns being the squad leader as they conduct a series of missions. When it’s your candidate’s turn to be the squad leader, they’ll receive an order and be responsible for developing a plan, delivering the order to the squad, and executing the mission. Once the mission is completed the squad leader will be evaluated on what went well and what didn’t. Since each candidate is required to be a squad leader, the SULE will take a full day to complete. Your candidate will be fueling up on MREs to get them through the exercise.
Despite being in the field for most of this week, candidates will be in the classroom to continue learning about Marine Corps history and policies. They’ll be quizzed at the end of the week on what they’ve learned so far. Remember, academics accounts for 25% of your candidate’s grade, so they might be hitting the books in the evenings. Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back immediately from your candidate this week, they are probably studying for their test.
That wraps up week 4. In your next letter, be sure to ask your candidate which MRE they prefer to eat while out in the field. I’ll be back next week with intel on week 5 of the Platoon Leaders Course at Quantico.
Sgt. Maj. (ret.) Paul Davis