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An Iraqi role player with the Advisor Training Group helps Marines and sailors with a military transition team as they attend to fake casualties after an attack from an improvised explosive device May 1 at the Combat Center’s Gypsum Ridge training area.

Photo by Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

ATG helps Marines, Iraqis bite through

2 May 2009 | Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

Marines and sailors training at the Combat Center’s Advisor Training Group finished their 16–day period with their Mission Rehearsal Exercise at the Combat Center’s Gypsum Ridge April 28 through May 2.

The MRX was the culmination of the training all transition teams must complete before they deploy in support of the Global War on Terrorism, said Gunnery Sgt. Arthur Drynan, a lead assessor with ATG and a native of Great Falls, Mont.

“The training going on now is a great exercise for them to put together everything they have learned here with their skills in a realistic way,” he said. “When they’re done, the teams will be going back to their parent units to finish preparing for their different deployments.”

Many factors play a role in the full scenario ATG has prepared for their teams, but some aspects play a significantly different role than others, Drynan said.

“The most important part, I think, is the staff time at each team’s individual combat outposts, where they can socialize and interact with the role players,” he said. “They are given time to get to know the Iraqi people and their society. These people are real Iraqis.”

The training does wonders to help the Marines toward learning and accomplishing their mission, he said.

“It does a great deal for the training to have Marines getting the most accurate taste of Iraqi country and culture,” he said. They learn the language, but again, more importantly they learn about the people.”

Drynan said aside from learning about the culture, the Marines take a lot away from what they learn to make them better advisors, not just war fighters.

“Every Marine is a killer,” he said. “It’s what we were all trained to do in boot camp.  The purpose of the transition teams is to fight the war by mentoring the local military forces and making them better. ATG trains Marines to be more than just warriors.”

The Marines brought their normal job proficiency into the training and learned how to teach and be part of a team of advisors, said Maj. John Frank D’astoli, a Military in Transition Team leader and a native of Agoura Hills, Calif.

“I believe all the Marines on this team have significantly improved on their abilities to pass on their knowledge,” D’astoli said during the second day of the MRX. “We learned from the training and accomplished our mission.”

D’astoli said the teams will succeed because of the personal drive in every service member on his team.

“All these people here volunteered to be part of what is going on,” he said. “They have the willpower and the determination to take what we’ve learned, and use it to bring the fight to the enemy and win.”

With their training complete, the teams will return to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and II MEF , based at MCB Camp Lejeune, N. C., and prepare for their upcoming deployments.

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