The Marine Critical Skills Operator (CSO)—a gunnery sergeant—was the first Marine Raider to attend the course, and also became the first American to receive the highest distinction of the course for his stellar performance.
“I did two weeks of review before departing for the course,” said the gunnery sergeant, who remains anonymous for operational security reasons, in an interview with DVIDS. “In the course information packet, there was a list of topics and knowledge that we would be covering in the course that we needed to be capable of effectively communicating. Knowing the content we would be covering made my language review easier and a lot more targeted.”
The French Commando “Moniteur” Training Course took place in Mont-Louis, France. It’s a 26-day training for junior officers and senior non-commissioned officers which focuses on combat infantry skills, survival methods, and special operations infiltration and extraction techniques.
“Being a CSO, you have to go through so many other schools and tests that in that aspect at least, I was prepared for this course,” added the American gunnery sergeant in his DVIDS statement. “It was adding in the language that changed that and made things difficult. Students must be highly motivated and willing to make extreme efforts in regard to a language barrier,” the Marine Raider said. “If I hadn’t had a background in a majority of the techniques they were going over, I wouldn’t have been successful at all.”
The course is taught entirely in French. Consequently, allied troops participating must not only have the physical and mental stamina to meet the course’s challenges, but also possess the intellectual aptitude to operate in stressful environments while communicating in a foreign language.
“I didn’t have a choice but to use the language, and there was an initial struggle,” the Raider said. “The formality and the speed that the instructors spoke was difficult to understand at times, and they wouldn’t slow down just for you.”
The MARSOC language program manager said that “we knew the gunnery sergeant would be a great candidate for this and that he’d represent the command and the Marine Corps well. He far exceeded our expectations by being the first American to receive the course’s highest distinction upon graduating.”
Such exchanges not only strengthen bilateral alliances between allied countries but are also superb ways to improve the tactics, techniques, and procedures of units. Once a Marine, Sailor, Airman, or Soldier returns to his unit, he’s able to pass along information that could save lives in the future and make the unit more combat effective and lethal.