U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicles at the Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Feb. 20, 2021.

U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicles at the Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Feb. 20, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps / Sgt. Courtney G. White

A new Marine training course aims to break old habits

The Operational Certification course was established after two surf-zone rollovers in the Amphibious Combat Vehicle.

Old habits die hard. So after two rollovers caused by Marines driving the new Amphibious Combat Vehicle like the old Amphibious Assault Vehicle, the Corps created a new training unit to break outdated habits and teach better, safer ones.

“I believe it's that 50 years of experience that we had with the legacy assault amphibian vehicle that created a certain degree of muscle memory that led us to focus more heavily on the similarities between the legacy vehicle and the ACV, than focus on the differences,” Col. Howard Hall, who stood up the Transition Training Unit in February, told reporters on July 28. “So it's the differences where the TTU had really taken those initial steps and wanted to focus on the differences instead of the similarities on behalf of the institution.”

The TTU developed the Operational Certification course this spring to address some of the shortfalls in how they initially trained for and operated the new ACVs. 

Among other problems, the TTU team found that the ACV documents—including technical and training-and-readiness manuals—were being updated weekly, with too many changes to take in. 

“So I think consciously or subconsciously, we filled in that gap with what's called negative habit transference from the legacy vehicle,” said Hall, who is now chief of staff for the Marine Corps’ Training and Education Command.  

The Marines also realized that the newest operators and maintainers were the “most proficient” on the ACV, but when they went to their units, they “faced up against a larger majority of those who, you know, kind of held on to the legacy practices for maintenance, for operations, and safe execution,” said Hall.

He said the TTU brought in experts to create the Operational Certification course from scratch, to ensure that it incorporated the best practices and most current documents. The course is designed to train Marines with AAV experience to safely and effectively operate the ACV.

“This is the most comprehensive effort that I'm aware of that the assault amphibian community has taken to date,” Hall said. “Again, this blank-slate approach, undeterred by any previous practices, is how we defined what right looks like, and built that into the program.”

The 15-day course is conducted in four phases, starting with a knowledge test and eventually moving into open waters. Students must meet each phase’s requirements before moving on, Hall said. 

On July 25, the Operational Certification course graduated 29 ACV operators, making a total of 59, said a Marine Corps press release. Another 30 Marines have graduated from the TTU’s five-day maintainers certification course.

The TTU program has also passed lessons to parent units to help them prepare Marines for the courses, Hall said: “There are a number of skills that can be and should be practiced before those Marines come through a TTU evaluation certification.”

The OPCERT course is being held every five to six weeks. The Marine Corps says it will take until next fall to certify the remaining 240 to 250 operators and about 50 maintainers.

The work developed by the TTU is now available to students going through the Assault Amphibian School as well as those receiving training when the ACV is initially introduced to their unit, forming one standard across the different training paths, said Lt. Col. Frederick Monday, who oversees the TTU.