SLUNJ, Croatia -- As he navigated his way through the wilderness of Croatia, Sgt. Shawn Walsh thought to himself, "This is why I joined the Marine Corps."
Walsh, a Legal Specialist for the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), was one of many who took advantage of the day and night land navigation course, part of a unique training package offered to Marines of the MEU's Command Element during Exercise Slunj 2000.
"Most of the jobs within the Command Element keep us at our desks," said Walsh, a St. Louis, Mo. native. "So getting out to practice fundamental Marine skills is not always easy."
Which is exactly why the training package was put together, according to Capt. Jeff Holt, Dallas, Texas native and Assistant Operations Officer with the MEU's Command Element.
"This is building important field skills for these Marines," said Holt. "They get to come out here and [march], sweat and shoot rounds. We decided early on we wanted the Command Element Marines to have this opportunity, so we made it happen."
To facilitate this training, Holt said the operations section was divided into a training cell and an operations cell. While the training cell arranged and supervised the Command Element's training package, the operations cell focused on the Command Element's primary role of planning and coordinating Exercise Slunj 2000.
The Command Element training started with the basics. The Marines shot their M-16 A2 Service Rifles so they could adjust their weapons' aim. After the shooting, Marines spent the next two days in the field for day and night land navigation courses.
"It was challenging because this was such mountainous terrain," said Walsh. "The map may say walk forty paces, but if you walk through a draw your count is messed up."
After the navigation courses the Marines had a medical evacuation drill that led them back to the Command Element camp, where they left the next morning on a six-mile hike.
The final pieces of the training package were a squad-size live fire shoot and a patrolling package.
"It was awesome," said LCpl. Daniel Medina, 26th MEU(SOC) Diary Clerk and Boston, Mass. native. "We got to do a little bit of everything. I have not been in for very long, so for guys like me this was a chance to brush up on things we haven't done since boot camp or Marine Combat training."
Holt said it was especially impressive that the Marines conducted this training package while performing their required jobs in the Command Element.
"They did great and the evolution was an absolute success," he said. "We got to do those fundamental Marine Corps things, and that's what we all join for. It's what Marines do. It's the best feeling in the world."