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Four Marines of Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, dismount their vehicles and punch-out to provide unit security while fellow Marines notionally call the Explosive Ordinance Disposal team to investigate a mock IED during a convoy training exercise outside of Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot in Hawthorne, Nev., March 7.

Photo by Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine

‘Thundering Third’ blaze through IED, convoy combat operation training

11 Mar 2009 | Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine

Marines and sailors of the Combat Center’s Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, conducted a 35-mile convoy training exercise on an unpaved road stretching from the town of Bridgeport, Calif., to Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot, Nev., March 7.

The scenario-based convoy exercise was designed to prepare the unit to avoid, detect and report improvised explosive devices in similar roads and terrain found in mountainous environments like Afghanistan, said Mike LaBarge, the course development specialist.

The exercise was used as practice for a final test in which the unit was hit harder with notional IEDs, enemy ambushes, vehicle malfunctions and other issues March 9.

Marines from 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, also based out of the Combat Center, supported the unit by overseeing the IED portion of the convoy training.

1st Lt. Michael A. Jevons, the Weapons Company commander, said he believes this type of training does leaps and bounds “for preparing his men for combat in country.”

“We want to make sure the Marines are equipped to conduct military operations to react to and defeat the enemy if they decide to attack,” said Jevons, a Manhattan, Kan., native. “This will help develop tactics, techniques, and procedures for mountainous operations.”

As the company, which was divided into two Combined Anti-Armor Teams, negotiated the curves and hills to Hawthorne March 7, they were critiqued on their speed and the techniques they used to observe the terrain. They were also evaluated on their ability to identify potential IEDs, set up security, maintain communication, assess casualties and handle notional vehicle failures.

Along the road, instructors planted two hoax IEDs made of trash bags and large plastic jugs as well as two “real” IEDs made to detonate and cause notional damage to equipment, vehicles and personnel.

For some of these Marines and sailors, the training honed skills and concepts they’ve already learned while others, fresh out of the School of Infantry, were learning some of these tactics for the first time.

“About 90 percent of our Marines are brand new and have never even been in a vehicle before,” said Sgt. Mario Desalvo, the acting CAAT 1 platoon sergeant for the exercise. “It’s good to get these guys started on good habits early on”

After the initial exercise, the unit gathered around their company commander and the instructors for a debrief and review of their actions. Although the Marines made some mistakes early on the battalion’s capability shone through much brighter at the end of the day.

LaBarge said the unit showed good distribution while driving, reacted quickly to scenarios, and used keen observation for enemy activity and potential IED indicators.

While in Hawthorne, the unit also took advantage of the live-fire ranges to further polish their weapons training, Jevons said.

“We’re going to do a range reaction to an ambush with live fire, have more remediation to IED drills, and work a little more on comm [communication] and casualty assessment skills,” he said.

“We just want to refine our TTPs [tactics, techniques and procedures] and identify areas we need to improve on.”

The unit is expected to return to the Combat Center early next week to continue preparing for the possibility of an Afghanistan deployment.

Both units expect to continue training at MWTC into the middle of March, and then are scheduled to return to the Combat Center to continue preparing for future deployments.


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