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Twentynine Palms

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center

Twentynine Palms, California
3/23 endures Mojave Viper for first time

By Pfc. Jared J. Butler | | September 13, 2007

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MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (Sept. 13, 2007) -- Marine reservists from across the country came together as 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, completed the Mojave Viper pre-deployment training aboard the Combat Center Sept. 13 in preparation for their deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Mojave Viper training was a new experience for 3/23 as they prepared for their second deployment to Iraq that marked the battalion’s first deployment since 2003.

The Marines of 3/23 experienced a considerable amount of change in their lifestyles after they were activated in May. The difference in their workload was an adjustment all of them had to make.

“It takes a little bit of adjusting to go from working one weekend a month to solid training everyday,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan J. Machem, rifleman, Kilo Company, 3/23.

Machem and many other Marines of 3/23 preparing for their first deployment, battle with the unfamiliarity of the changes reservists endure when activated.

“I think the initial shock of being away from their families is hard for the younger Marines to deal with,” said Sgt. Steve W. Ross, 1st Squad leader, 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/23.

Although the month-long Mojave Viper training is a substantial change for the Marines of 3/23, it prepares them for the time they will spend in Iraq.

“It took the Marines a few weeks to adjust to an everyday routine,” said Capt. Stephen B. Price, Mobile Assault Platoon commander, Weapons Company, 3/23. “But they are the most motivated Marines I’ve ever seen.”

The Marines of 3/23, who normally train once a month, took advantage of the realistic training provided by the Mojave Viper staff.

“The Mojave Viper training hit on a lot of the basics,” said Ross. “There is a lot of quality training to take away from here and apply in Iraq.”

The features and the location of the Mojave Viper training provided an experience that affects every Marine who takes part in it.

“It was great overall training at the company and the battalion level, which is hard to get at other locations,” said Price. “The Iraqi role players provided some of the best training these Marines have ever had.”

The final exercise for 3/23’s training cycle proved to be a challenging finish to their training that prepared them for a number of situations they could encounter in Iraq.

“They threw a lot of problems at us that made us think on our feet and make good decisions,” said Ross.

The FINEX is a 72 hour exercise that forces Marines to make sound and timely decisions under pressure.

“It’s definitely very challenging and gets everyone in the right mindset,” said Machem. “It gives a lot of good insight for what to expect in Iraq.”

After successfully finishing the Mojave Viper training, the Marines of 3/23 are fully prepared to be effective for their deployment.

“The Mojave Viper training was really in-depth and prepared us in a lot of different aspects,” said Ross. “The younger Marines are ready, and once they spend some time in Iraq, they will become more knowledgeable.”

The Marines of 3/23 are scheduled to relieve 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in Iraq at the end of September.


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