MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marines from 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., hit the dirt roads of the Combat Center’s training area during live-fire convoy operations Saturday as part of exercise Sidewinder, a pre-deployment training exercise for the battalion’s upcoming deployment to Iraq.
The training had the battalion’s Heavy Equipment, Motor Transportation and Security Platoons drive through a predetermined route in a nine-vehicle convoy with multiple scenarios involving enemy contact and simulated improvised explosive devices set up along the way.
“We basically just gave a brief before we took off to make sure everyone knew the route, went over our immediate action drills, and then we executed the range,” said 2nd Lt. John North, the Motor Transportation Platoon commander. “While on route, we hit several obstacles, like a near ambush, a far ambush and an IED strike.”
The Marines conducted the training with the mindset that even though the battalion’s mission will be demilitarization, route repair and general engineering operations during their deployment; enemy engagement and hostile fire is inevitable once in theater.
“It’s important for the Marines to know that we are going to dismount from a convoy in a combat area, and we will at certain times have to do what we were training for today,” said Lance Cpl. Lukas Pence, a heavy equipment operator with HE Platoon and an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. “This training is important because that’s usually where HE Marines are anyway, in the back of a 7-ton [truck], and we usually have to do a lot of dismounts like we did today.”
Sgt. Judd Belford, the HE Platoon sergeant, said the type of training the Marines went through is vital in making sure their reactions to those expected situations is second nature.
“The biggest thing I want the Marines to take away from this training today is to know that some action at the time is better than no action,” said the Savannah, Mo., native. “With this we can evaluate our Marines and train on our deficiencies, that way when we get into country we don’t have to worry about how our Marines are going to be reacting; it is going to be automatic for them.”
Pence said another aspect of the day’s training was to get the Marines newer to the battalion some “trigger time” and guidance from the more experienced Marines.
“The purpose of today is to get the new guys a good head on their shoulders about what’s going on, and how to do the things we learned today,” he said. “We corrected them whenever we saw any issues, and our platoon is pretty equal with experienced Marines who have been in theater and new Marines, so there was a lot of good direction going on.”
Along with the skills necessary to properly react and deal with the situations the Marines might face during their deployment, the knowledge that they knew they can deal with anything thrown at them is imperative, said North, an Alpharetta, Ga., native.
“I really just want them to have the piece of mind that comes with knowing that whatever situation that they run in to — we’ve got an answer for it,” he said. “And I want to make sure they’re empowered with all the knowledge they can get, to stay alive and stay safe when we go over there.”