Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Cory L. Burris, a data network specialist from Headquarters and Service Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and other H&S Co. Marines perform weapons handling drills in the hangar bay aboard USS Bataan (LHD 5), May 17, 2007. The Marines of BLT 2/2 have had to use creativity and organization to overcome limited training spaces aboard ship. (Official USMC photo by Cpl. Jeremy Ross) (Released)

Photo by Cpl. Jeremy Ross

Underway 'Warlords' conquer tight training quarters

17 May 2007 | Cpl. Jeremy Ross

Despite being more than four months into a scheduled six-month deployment aboard the ships of the Bataan Strike Group, Marines and sailors from the 'Warlords' of Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are not done training.

The battalion proved this with a day's worth of sustainment training, here, May 17. 

It was a day typical of the rigorous tempo the unit has maintained since deploying Jan. 6, and featured each of the three infantry companies here in an array of training evolutions, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense measures; proper building search procedures; and weapons handling drills.

Maintaining a keen edge on skills that could easily grow rusty without constant practice is what shipboard training is all about said 1st Lt. Erik N. Walker, executive officer for BLT 2/2's Headquarters and Service Company.

"Being on ship so much, we can lose a lot of the skills we strive to develop in our Marines," explained the Macon, Ga., native.  "This training helps keep the entire Marine concept fresh in their minds."

While the battalion is focused on maintaining these fundamental skills, it constantly finds itself contending with the space limitations of training at sea.

With nearly 600 Leathernecks from BLT 2/2 requiring the valuable training and a select few areas available to train them, the unit uses a meticulous scheduling system to ensure that as many of its troops as possible get an opportunity to participate, said Walker.

He added that keeping the size of any training group limited to 30 Marines also helps maximize the cramped space.

In addition to finding a spot to train his Marines, creatively implementing scenarios and course material has been crucial as well, said Sgt. Robert J. Fertal, a squad leader from Company E and a Cleveland native.

"We don't have very many places to train on ship, so we have to constantly change things up to keep the Marines' interest," he stated.

As an example, Fertal referenced an exercise his Marines participated in May 18. He and other squad leaders from Co. E were given a small room adjacent to the ship's mess deck to conduct training on proper building search techniques.  To simulate contraband, he hid the cap of his ink pen in the room and had his Marines locate it using the procedures they had been taught.

"We might not have the classic training areas, but we make do with what we have," said Fertal of the unorthodox training methods the battalion often adopts.

Another boon to the unit's ability to effectively train aboard ship is the presence of veterans of past MEU deployments, said Walker.

"Although every ship is different, having the experience within our unit of spending time at sea like this before has helped us out," he stated.

Overall, the battalion has done a good job of keeping its troops busy and focused on their warfighting skills, said Lance Cpl. Richard W. Wiebelt, a gunner from Weapons Company.

"There's really been no shortage of training," explained the New Orleans native.  "We've tackled a broad spectrum of subjects so far."

Although BLT 2/2 has trained non-stop at sea and ashore during the MEU's exercises, its troops have done a fine job keeping up the pace, said Walker.

"Our Marines have maintained a good, positive attitude throughout this deployment," he said.  "They've always been willing to give 100 percent towards their training."

With time still remaining on the current deployment, the unit has to maintain its focus, said Wiebelt.

"There's still the possibility of us going ashore somewhere for (sustained) operations," he said.  "But even if we don't, all the knowledge we've gained this time out will pay off in the future."

In addition to BLT 2/2, the 26th MEU is composed of its Command Element; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced); and Combat Logistics Battalion-26.

For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.