A Marine's Story

A first person account by Kevin Fallon '06

March 2007

One thing that sets the Marine Corps apart from the other services is that “Every Marine is a rifleman.” Basically, it doesn’t matter if you are an adjutant, a logistician, a tanker, or even a cook; every Marine is trained and proficient in operating within an infantry platoon.

I recently finished the six-month Infantry Officers Course, in which I spent the second half at Quantico, with the last month in 29 Palms, California, training in the desert. The training was incredible. The school teaches us all to be provisional rifle platoon commanders. Since I am an officer, I not only have to be proficient in operating within a platoon, but I also have to be able to lead a rifle platoon.

When we first got to IOC we were told we would be taught as much in the six months as you would cover in about 2.5 years of college. It’s true. The pace is relentless, the environment is extremely competitive, and every day is a challenge.

I loved it. I fell into the PT rep billet. (PT in Marine lingo is physical training.) I was in charge of making up our PT schedule for the whole company (259 lieutenants). So even though I did not go into a conventional profession with my clinical exercise science degree, I absolutely put my knowledge and skills to use here. This billet is a big responsibility because of the huge emphasis the Marine Corps puts on PT, but I loved being a strength and conditioning coach for 259 highly trained, highly disciplined, and highly motivated athletes. It made my job pretty easy.

I enjoy being challenged daily and have made friendships that will last a lifetime. I would not be able to do the things that I did in IOC anywhere else in the world. For example, one week we were doing a field evolution where as the platoon commander I was in charge of conducting an ambush on a mock patrol and then an assault on an objective. I had 155mm artillery and two F/A-18 Hornets armed with 500-pound bombs. That is millions and millions of dollars worth of assets I was in charge of employing, and 44 Marines I was leading.

Sure, it is a school environment and these are mock scenarios, but we learned to properly use the assets we have and to refine our own leadership styles. It is one thing to lead Marines you outrank, because it is expected, but it’s a whole other thing to lead peers. It’s difficult, but in the end it makes us all more effective leaders.

In the Marine Corps, your job is called your MOS, or military occupational specialty. This can be infantry officer, pilot, tanker, logistician, intel, and anything in between. This school is also used to evaluate you for the MOS that you want. Once we receive our MOS we go on to our respective MOS schools, which can last anywhere from two months to a year depending on what MOS you get. I am now moving out to Camp Pendleton, California, where I will be a platoon commander in 1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment. We deploy in November, but I can’t say where we are going and what we will be doing. My time before that will be spent training the platoon and conducting the battalion SOTG (Special Operations Task Group) Raid package. Upon completion of that we will complete a variation of Mojave Viper, the training package all units go through before they deploy.

They are rotating lieutenants over to Iraq very quickly because they want the leadership within the Corps to have as much experience as possible. I am excited for that opportunity. You can call me crazy, but I don’t think you could find a football or basketball player anywhere who would tell you they never want to play in a game, they just want to practice. This is our big game, our opportunity to put our training to the test and lead.

There is no greater honor I can think of than leading the most motivated and disciplined people. The people I work with every day are of the highest caliber. I am humbled to be in their presence and work with them. I have the best job in the world commanding them.

Now that I am here, I realize how much more prepared Ithaca makes its alumni than other colleges with similar programs. Everything there puts us head and shoulders above our competition. It is an outstanding program and one that I am proud to call my alma mater. Thank you to all the faculty for everything they did for me.

Semper fidelis.

Kevin Fallon graduated and was given his first choice for MOS, infantry, finishing IOC on April 4. He will be assigned to a unit and stationed in the United States before being deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan with his unit before the end of the year.