Photo Information

A Marine and crowd react to simulated bombs exploding during a training exercise Aug. 11, 2006, Blackwater Training Center, Blackwater USA. The 26th MEU Marines were being evaluated on their ability to protect and move a VIP in combat.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron J. Rock

Marines fire on live targets at Blackwater

11 Aug 2006 | Lance Cpl. Aaron J. Rock 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Marines and Sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit wrapped up an intense training course here, today, at the Blackwater Training Center, Blackwater USA.

The course lasted more than a week and a half, and consisted of advanced weapons training, tactical driver training, and security training for escorting VIPs.

According to the Blackwater USA curriculum, the driving programs have three different tracks used to teach the students travel security and route assessment for surveillance detection.  The tracks give constant corners with elevation, traction and surface change.

The participants were drawn from a variety of the elements of the 26th MEU, and included both officers and enlisted personnel.

Many of the segments of the course involved real firefights using paint rounds fired from specially modified rifles and pistols.

Often members of the Fleet Marine Force use blank rounds during training and do not have the opportunity to fire actual rounds in their weapons, except during qualifications.  During this course the troops were able to engage in real firefights, adding tremendous value to the training.

Many of the Marines and Sailors thought the firefights were one of the most important training sequences in the course.

Major Christopher C. Lynch, executive officer of the 26th MEU's Combat Logistics Battalion-26, said being able to engage in real situations where the use of weapons was necessary was good training.

"This was extremely useful training," he said.  "It gave us a lot of confidence in our weapons."

In addition to firing weapons, the training forced the participants to focus and rely on small unit movements to accomplish missions, another important lesson for Marines, said Lynch.

"[The course] taught us how to survive in squad size groups; there was a lot of small unit leadership going on," he said.

Lance Cpl. Ryan N. Ortega, a radio operator for the 26th MEU's Command Element, agreed with Lynch's assessment of the firearms training.

"It enhanced my marksmanship and made me more familiar with team movement," he said.

The training at Blackwater USA is another step in the six-month, pre-deployment training process designed to increase the combat proficiency of the 26th MEU and form it into a cohesive, rapid-reaction force.   The 26th MEU will continue to prepare for an early 2007 deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

For more information on the 26th MEU, go to

26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)