MIDDLE EAST -- Marines and Sailors from Company F, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, began company-wide combat scenario training ashore in the Middle East, today.
The scenario training was designed to serve as an evaluation of Co. F's mounted vehicle patrol and convoy battle skills in the face of numerous challenges and situations that could be encountered on modern battlefields.
After departing the MEU's camp in humvees, the Marines encountered several scenarios that they had to dismount and overcome, including improvised explosive device attacks, sniper fire and simulated casualties.
Having the know-how to effectively deal with these and other situations is a necessity in today's Marine Corps, and something that company leadership wanted to ensure was not lost on their Marines during their current role as the MEU's mechanized raid force, said 1st Lt. Andrew T. Carter, Co. F's executive officer and a native of Endicott, N.Y.
As the mech raid force, Co. F has been training since June 2006 to assault objectives with the support of Assault Amphibian Vehicles. To ensure the overall readiness of the Marines, basic infantry skills such as convoy and patrol operations must be maintained to the same level as the specialized knowledge and skills necessary to work with AAVs, he explained.
"Knowing how to handle (combat) scenarios properly can be the difference between Marines living and dying," he said. "It would be a disservice to our Marines not to (teach) them (mounted combat) skills."
To that end, the training stressed quick thinking and reaction by the Marines going through the event.
"If you're taking contact in a convoy, the initial five or six seconds are the most important," said Carter. "You've got to gain fire superiority or get your Marines in a position where they are safe."
The austere, arid landscape near here provided the backdrop for the training event and was an ideal place to rehearse mounted tactics, as it resembles the environments where Co. F could very well find itself operating during the current deployment, continued Carter.
While Co. F has been hard at work while at sea learning the details and skills associated with mounted warfare, the wide-open desert terrain offered a valuable departure from the close-confines of the shipboard learning environment, said Lance Cpl. Mike P. Bergeron, a team leader from Leominster, Mass.
"We did a lot of classes on ship, but it's easy to get complacent there," he explained. "It feels good to get out here and apply our skills in the open again."
A good training environment was not the only resource available to Co. F during the exercise.
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced), the MEU's aviation combat element, provided CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters in a supporting, on-call role.
The aircraft were called in by each squad going through the training to conduct a simulated casualty evacuation, actually landing on the battlefield and greatly adding to the realism and value of the event, said Bergeron.
"The air support helped get some of the more inexperienced Marines used to calling in air, and helps give them an idea of how quickly the (aircraft) can get to them," he added.
Although the tactics used during the scenario training were not intimately familiar to all the Marines of Co. F, the troops worked hard to take advantage of the excellent opportunity to increase their combat knowledge, said 2nd Lt. Andrew C. Eckert, a platoon commander with the company and a native of New Glarus, Wis.
"This training showed our Marines are willing to take on missions they're not familiar with," he explained. "They got the job done and did a great job applying the basics they learned from their previous training and applying them to [the mounted operations] scenarios."
Co. F and other elements of the 26th MEU are currently ashore for sustainment and bilateral training with regional forces.
The MEU is in the fourth month of its routine, scheduled deployment that began Jan. 6 and has included successful training exercises in Djibouti and Kenya.
For more information on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.