MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER BRIDGEPORT, Calif. --
The Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, wrapped up their training evolution at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., with a final exercise Sept. 1 through Sunday.
The FINEX was a culmination of the past three weeks of training the battalion conducted here, which included mountain mobility training and Afghan culture classes.
Each company in the battalion was assigned to areas of operations throughout the training center.
Company K was assigned to cover six-kilometer area of operations filled with fields, streams and thick woods, known as Landing Zone Penguin.
The company was responsible for the security and well-being of the inhabitants of a small, simulated village located in the heart of the LZ surrounded by enemy insurgent activity, and faced several issues like construction and water needs.
First Lt. Gustavo Martinez, the commanding officer of Co. K, said the villagers did not welcome the Marines’ presence at first, but quickly grew to understand his company was there to help.
“The biggest thing I learned from this training was the cultural aspects of the Afghans, and the do’s and don’ts with the Afghan role players, said Martinez, a Stockton, Calif., native.
Martinez took part in several key leader engagements with the village elders to discuss the issues facing the village and said he admired the way Afghans conduct meetings.
“One thing I found interesting was how the elders never cut straight to business,” he said. “We always asked about family, friends and other things before we talked about the village’s problems.”
Sgt. Nick Brandau, an instructor with the Unit Training Group here, said Martinez and the rest of the company stood out from other companies in the battalion.
“Everything went well with [Co. K],” said Brandau, a Topeka, Kan., native. “They set up security well in and around the village, and worked really well with the villagers to establish teamwork.”
Not everything went so smoothly for other companies in the battalion.
In another village, a firefight broke out, which ended in civilian casualties. Word of the incident quickly reached the villagers in LZ Penguin, but was put to rest by Martinez during an early morning meeting with the village elders.
“You can’t apologize for the actions of war,” said Martinez after the meeting. “You can only justify your actions. If we apologized for our mistakes we’d never get anywhere.”
Pfc. Eric Harsy, a rifleman with Co. K, said he enjoyed the different types of training he received here.
“I really liked learning the subtle differences between the Iraqi and Afghan people,” said Harsy, a Madison, Wis., native. “The survival classes and mountain mobility classes were all good training, but I’ll be happy to be back in Twentynine Palms.”
The battalion made its way back to the Combat Center Wednesday, and is slated to continue training for an upcoming deployment next year.