MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- A line of Marines takes aim and fires rounds down range with the familiar sound of gun shots echoing in the hills. Among them is an unfamiliar face in an unfamiliar uniform training alongside the team.
Midshipman Matt Metzdorff, 20, from Waseca, Minn., a junior at the United States Naval Academy joined Marines with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment as they conducted a Combat Marksmanship Program live-fire shoot aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 30-July 1, 2014.
The training presented a wide variety of learning opportunities for Metzdorff. He had the opportunity to shoot advanced marksmanship courses, and learned to employ fragmentation grenades and the AT-4, an anti-tank weapon system.
“We had concurrent training going on along with the live fire,” said 1st Lt. Wes Leeper, 28, from West Lafayette, Ind., a platoon commander with Company G. “They were going through battle drills, fragmentation battle drills and rocket battle drills.”
As a part of the program, Metzdorff has been closely shadowing Leeper and learning more than just combat tactics.
Through watching Leeper interact with his platoon, Metzdorff said he was able to pick up on good leadership traits he will try to emulate in the future.
“Today, I was with them seeing how they set up the range and how 1st. Lt. Leeper interacts with his Marines,” said Metzdorff, “Any time he gets in front of his platoon, he is a very professional guy that knows what to say and he’s very direct.”
Metzdorff said Leeper has been a great role model for him throughout his stay at Camp Pendleton.
Metzdorff was exposed to officers and enlisted Marines in leadership positions during the shoot.
Leeper said he hopes Metzdorff learned the most from the noncommissioned officers who are serving as squad leaders for the company.
“Hopefully he grasps the NCO leadership that’s out there,” said Leeper, “I have some excellent squad leaders with combat experience. We ask a lot of them and they come through.”
At the conclusion of Metzdorff’s time at the academy, he will be able to select service preferences and then will be assigned as either a Marine or naval officer.
Regardless of where Metzdorff ends up, Leeper said working with the infantry was an important learning experience that will be useful in his future endeavors.
“It’s good that he gets to come see (infantry Marines),” said Leeper. “Even if he does end up on a ship, he will understand the capabilities the Marines on his ship have.”
Metzdorff said the program was a successful learning experience that he will be able to implement later in his career as a future military officer.