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Sergeant Derrick C. Johnson, a squad leader with Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, heads across a field as a CH-53 Sea Stallion lifts off behind him. Battalion Landing Team 1/7 was the spearhead for exercise Dawn Blitz.

Photo by ABOARD THE USS BONHOMME RICHARD

‘First Team’ trains for every clime, place

11 Jun 2010 | Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, along with others from the Combat Center, boarded the amphibious assault ships USS Germantown and Bonhomme Richard to participate in Dawn Blitz May 31 to June 4.

The large-scale, amphibious assault exercise gave “First Team” an opportunity to practice their skills in preparation for their upcoming deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit next month, said Lt. Col. Todd P. Simmons, the unit’s commanding officer, and a native of Watervliet, N.Y.

The real value of this training is that is will help his personnel become strong seafaring Marines, Simmons said.

BLT 1/7 brought more than 700 Marines and some major firepower to Dawn Blitz, which added to the artillery and air support from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and the Navy ships. This included a platoon of light armored vehicles, artillery from Battery M, 3rd Bn., 11th Marines, and amphibious assault vehicles from Company D, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion.

Simmons said while his Marines are capable of taking on any challenge, they face a long road in mastering their new role.

“The vast majority of us have never been on ship before,” Simmons said. Most of the Marines have multiple tours to Iraq under their belts, but don’t know the basics of living at sea.

Rather than viewing this as a weakness, Simmons said the battalion saw its lack of sea service experience as an opportunity to train. They went through the Tactical Small Unit Leaders Course and the Airfield Seizure exercise, and spent a long time training for their MEU mission outside the Combat Center.

The new deployment training has also helped deepen the resolve and motivation of First Team, Simmons said. He wasn’t sure how many of them were going to respond to their new role. Fortunately, the vast majority of them responded positively.

“Many of the Marines have said ‘This isn’t Iraq, it’s a cool mission, and it’s what I extended for,’” he said. “They’ll live this life to see it’s a good one.”

Some Iraq and Afghan- istan veterans said they are looking forward to seeing more than what they describe as a sand-choked desert.

“Its going to be nice getting out of Twentynine Palms for a while,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Cobb, Company C, 1st Bn., 7th Marines, and a native of Lafayette, Ga. “I joined the Marine Corps to see the world. [It] sounds like we’re going to be doing plenty of that when we go over there.”

Other Marines expressed excitement mixed with cautious optimism.

“I think the MEU is going to be pretty cool,” said Pfc. Chris Storm, a rifleman with Co. C, who is from Cambridge, Minn. “I don’t know how much I’m going to like ship life, but for the experience I’m going to have, it’s going to be worth it.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms