NATIONAL TRAINING CENTER FORT IRWIN, Calif. --
The Marines and sailors of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion completed their two-week pre-deployment training evolution here Jan. 30, at the end of a final exercise designed to test their newly acquired skills.
The Wolfpack spent a week preparing for the four-day FINEX by conducting urban patrols, zone and route reconnaissance missions, and casualty evacuation exercises throughout Fort Irwin’s training areas.
“The National Training Center here at Fort Irwin affords us a great opportunity to conduct many types of missions,” said Lt. Col. Ken Kassner, commanding officer. “Our principle focus of effort here is to conduct counter-insurgency operations while working with Iraqi Police, Iraqi Army soldiers and civil leadership officials to better the situation in their respective simulated towns.
“Due to the versatility, maneuverability and the organic firepower of an LAR battalion, we can conduct a variety of missions across the spectrum of counter-insurgency,” added the Coupland, Texas, native.
The battalion’s scenario during the FINEX was to help Iraqi Security Forces defeat enemy insurgents in order to facilitate self-governance and economic development in the simulated towns throughout the training area, dubbed the Al Khadaa Province.
Each company faced similar problems in their assigned towns dealing with sanitation, water, food, crime and economic development issues. All of these problems have been common in Iraq since the fall of the Iraqi government in 2003.
Company D was appointed as the main effort in Al Wahde, the provincial capital.
Throughout the four-day exercise, Company D, also known by their call sign ‘Dragoons,’ identified the problems civilian Iraqi role players faced and made efforts to better the town.
The Dragoons helped train Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police officials, identified and investigated potential terrorists, and provided medical care and food to civilian role players.
“This was really good training for a non-kinetic environment,” said Lance Cpl. Aaron Ramos, rifleman, Company D, 3rd LAR. “We’ve been practicing language skills and building rapport with the local populous in order to gain valuable information.”
Training now is much different than it was during the initial invasion of Iraq, added the Oceanside, Calif., native. Instead of being the tip of the spear, Marines are now mainly playing a support role.
“This training really gets us in the mindset that we aren’t going to go to Iraq and be in a fully kinetic environment all the time,” said Cpl. Sergio Gomez, squad leader, Company D, 3rd LAR.
However, the random riots and simulated improvised explosive device attacks helped us avoid complacency, added the Downey, Calif., native.
The Iraqi role players also proved to be key factors during the training exercise. They only spoke Arabic, making the Marines work a little harder when gathering intelligence and conducting daily operations. However, translators were assigned to each company to help break the language barrier.
Thanks to our training here at Fort Irwin and Exercise Steel Knight, which took place at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., in December, the Wolfpack will be ready for anything we may face in Iraq, said Kassner.
The Wolfpack is slated for its fifth deployment to Iraq this spring and may be one of the last LAR battalions to deploy to the country.