MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marines of 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., finished up Exercise Sidewinder — a pre-deployment training exercise for the battalion’s upcoming deployment to Iraq — with a final field evolution in the Combat Center’s training area Oct. 24 – 28.
While completing their pre-deployment training requirements, the Marines added to the training capacity for Marines training here in the future.
“As part of our training, we built several structures for the Combat Center that are going to provide added training capabilities of future Marines,” said 2nd Lt. Nathan Blodgett, the Heavy Equipment Platoon commander for 8th ESB’s Engineering Support Company. “We’re really happy that we get to do this because hopefully it’s all going to be here for a couple of years to come.”
Blodgett said the final exercise had the different companies and platoons of the battalion performing various missions throughout the training areas, many actually adding to or improving facilities.
“The exercise had each different company and platoon specifically issued orders that pertained to their specialty,” said the Lima, Ohio, native. “We had Charlie Company adjacent to us in the same city — they were basically building and improving a forward operating base — and we also had other Marines building a combat outpost in another village, and Engineering Support Company had route repair missions throughout the training.”
Even though the Marines were performing work that was improving the actual training facilities, each job was also worked into the training scenarios for added realism.
“My platoon was tasked with an actual build of a concrete reinforced overwatch tower, but the scenario was that we were there to build it for an Iraqi police chief at his police station,” Blodgett said. “We had to work hand in hand with him to get that tower built and keep him happy at the same time.”
Lance Cpl. Donald Kohl, a heavy equipment operator with HE Platoon, said the realism of the scenarios and having to deal with actual Iraqi role players during the training were vital aspects of the exercise, especially for the newer Marines who have yet to deploy.
“You can’t get better training than this without actually heading to Iraq,” said the native of North Chelmsford, Mass., and an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. “I believe this is the best kind of training Marines can get within the U.S.”
Blodgett said he was impressed with how well the Marines performed their tasks, even under “enemy” contact and dealing with Iraqi civilian role players.
“The heavy equipment Marines did an absolutely outstanding job because they were performing an actual crane lift operation, which is extremely dangerous — we’re talking about pieces that weighed up to 50,000 pounds each, with the total tower weighing about 150,000 pounds,” he explained. “So they definitely got a lot out of the training because it was an actual engineering operation and at the same time they had to deal with the Iraqi civilians and the security issues.
“That also means the Marines from the Security Platoon who were attached to us during the crane op did their job, and the job they were performing is tough because in a large area like we were in, they’re responsible for overall security and presence patrols too, which they got some good experience out of by doing small patrols through the city with the Iraqi Police. So all and all, I think the Marines took a lot away from the training.”
Sgt. Samuel Chicora, a team leader with HE platoon, said the final exercise served as an important assessment and showed just how prepared all the Marines are to deploy.
“These Marines are going to do outstanding work once the get in theater, and this has just proven that,” said the Las Vegas native. “We have a great group of guys and I couldn’t ask for anyone better to deploy with.”