Correction of USNI Article "Marine Infantry Training Shifts from ‘Automaton’ to Thinkers, as School Adds Chess to the Curriculum"

The purpose of this letter is to request a redaction or update of the USNI News article: “Marine Infantry Training Shifts from ‘Automaton’ to Thinkers, as School Adds Chess to the Curriculum” written by Gidget Fuentes on December 15, 2020. The article does not accurately explain the origins of “Fire Team Chess”, nor give credit to the Marines responsible for the idea.

            From January to December 2020, Marines from I MEF 1st Expeditionary Operations Training Group (EOTG) were consulted to help develop and structure the new Marine Infantry Course. The initial request was specifically for implementing the new marksmanship program used at EOTG in early 2019. The hallmark of the “Tactical Skill Builder” (TSB) marksmanship program is allowing the student to make critical decisions at a pace that naturally progresses throughout the entire program. In essence, the TSB uses cogitative development through masterful coaching and modern instructional design to help layer skill development in a way that forces the student to make the most logical decision with the information given.

            ITB-SOI-West sent several combat instructors to EOTG Close Quarters Tactics Course which is responsible for training Marine Reconnaissance Companies for deployment as the Maritime Raid Force. From 13 September to 30 October, EOTG Instructors Staff Sergeant Gabriel Gillespie and Michael Keevil interacted with the ITB instructors to help answer difficult problems resulting from planning conferences in regards to the new Marine Infantry Course. One problem was: “How do you get young Marines to begin problem-solving and making decisions with limited time and resources”?

            Chess is historically a game of strategy which requires the players to identify patterns and counter their opponents. On Staff Sergeant Keevil’s last deployment as a Recon Platoon Sergeant with 3D Recon Battalion in the Philippines in 2018, his Recon Marines would routinely play variations of chess during their downtime—one of them being team speed chess. With this in mind given the restraints of ITB, Gillespie and Keevil developed the conditions for “Fire Team Chess”. In this vein, the concept was tested and evaluated by EOTG instructors and determined its viability for a seemingly simple strategy game to force cognitive development in a fast-paced team environment. As a result, Fire Team Chess was shown to the ITB staff with tremendous results. 


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