MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
It was quiet, we could hear the brush blowing in the wind and whispers from Marines passing on the extract time. Our 360 degree perimeter was in place, now we waited, scanning the area for the opposition forces. Before we could see the CH-47 Chinook, we heard it.
The extraction mission began quickly during the heat of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment’s five day Final Exercise.
The sound of the rotors created a sense of excitement for some Marines with guard force platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 1/7.
A four kilometer patrol began after the CH-47 inserted the Marines near the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center’s landing zone Canary.
“We’re about 800 meters off-target,” said 2nd Lt. George Russo, the executive officer for H&S Co., 1/7, after the helicopter insert.
Off-target meant a longer push towards the battalion’s Combat Operations Center than expected.
“I like the intensity and the motivation,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Holland, a supply clerk with H&S Co., 1/7, who doesn’t normally carry a rifle.
It was a non-stop situational awareness patrol. While scanning their sectors, the Marines were watching their step through the rugged terrain of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.
“A lot of them aren’t used to this stuff, but in preparation for Afghanistan, and with the philosophy of every man a rifleman, these H&S Marines are forced to get some of this training, and that’s what we’re doing out here,” explained Russo, about the patrol.
As the patrol neared its end, no oppositional forces were found. As training goes, it’s about gaining experience and building a foundation for their future operations in Afghanistan.
“They’re being taxed, they’re being pushed, they’re being worked, but they’re adjusting and they’re actually surprising me with their abilities and motivation,” said Russo. “I’m pretty happy with how the H&S Marines are training.”