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Pfc. Justin Rodgers yells a firing command during Mojave Viper March 3. Rodgers and other Marines of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment started the desert pre-deployment training to prepare for their upcoming tour to Afghanistan. Once the battalion arrives in country, they will support the Afghan military. Rodgers is an 18-year-old assaultman from Company E. He is from Roanoke, Texas.

Photo by Cpl. Ray Lewis

Afghanistan-bound battalion begins Mojave Viper

3 Mar 2008 | Cpl. Ray Lewis

Marines of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, bound for Afghanistan, started Mojave Viper – the Corps’ premier desert training – and began training for war March 3 to fulfill the battalion’s pre-deployment requirements.

 Even the training schedule was modified to prepare the Marines for the unique challenges in the Afghanistan area of operations, said Maj. Lee Helton, the battalion executive officer.

 “To me this training is very important,” said Pfc. Tesillo M. Nunez, a 19-year-old mortarman from Los Angeles, assigned to Company E. “The harder they train me here, the better my chances are in Afghanistan, which will bring me and my fellow Marines back to the States alive.”

 Many of the Marines have been deployed to Iraq, but the Marines know they need to prepare for a different battlefield.

 “Things have changed,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Sprauer, 21, a rifleman who already has one Iraq deployment under his belt.

 “They use different tactics over there.” said Sprauer, from Carol Stream, Ill., who is assigned to Co. F, 2/7.

 One set of tactics used by Afghan fighters are countering improvised explosive devices. That makes IED training crucial to the Marines’ success in Afghanistan.

 “The biggest thing is the IED awareness training,” said Cpl. Ryan S. Roccio, a 20-year-old rifleman from Whittier, Calif., with Co. G, 2/7. “It plays a big part in combating the IEDs in Afghanistan. It’s going to help save lives in country.”

 Although this is a new mission, the Marines are raring to fight.

 “I’m ready to get my first deployment out of the way and finally see some combat,” said Pfc. Michael A. Ruiz-Rodriguez, 18, a rifleman from Visalia, Ca, with Co. E, 2/7.

 The unit is scheduled to complete the desert training later this month.

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