FORT PICKETT, Va. --
During a portion of their three weeks of training here at Fort Pickett, Va., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment's E Company executed a live-fire exercise known as an urban assault course.
The 'Echo Raiders' used the course to help evaluate all the training they had completed up to that point, said 2nd Lt. Brandon Wheeler, the officer- in- charge of the UAC.
"A live-fire exercise just confirms what they already know, so it's training in itself, but at the same time this is their test; and they've shown so far that they are very well prepared," he said.
The training allowed the Echo Raiders to practice their room-clearing abilities.
"We have done a good bit of training up to this point, we're just really capitalizing on being here," said Capt. Eric Gibbs, the company commander of E Co.
The Raiders practiced clearing rooms with live ammunition and improved their understanding of the geometry of fire while at the course.
"This training is important because most of the things that we will be doing will be in an urban environment," the company commander explained.
And according to Gibbs, in the Marines' minds, live rounds heighten their alertness.
"You can do it all day with blanks, you can do it all day with dry runs, and you just go through the motions, but here it gives the seriousness of what we're doing and the importance of what we're teaching them," he said, going on to say, "so, it's bringing it all together."
The course consisted of three lanes of fire, each of which reinforced the Marines' knowledge of urban warfare.
"It forced the Marines to work together," Gibbs explained.
Inside each room were as many as two targets, which only fell if they were shot twice. These rooms were meant to simulate what the Marines might face if they had to confront an enemy in urban terrain.
"Seventy percent of the world's population lives in urban areas," Gibbs said. "Chances are if we go anywhere it's going to be in an urban environment."
The 26th MEU is wrapping up its first unit-wide training exercise since forming Feb. 15. Fort Pickett afforded the Marines an excellent location for the training. 26th MEU Marines are working in preparation for their upcoming deployment this fall.
Tough training is the only way the Marine Corps can maintain its reputation as the very best, and that's no problem for Marines like Lance Cpl. Nicholas Gesar, a rifleman for the Raiders.
"We can (practice Military Operations in Urban Terrain) in a building with no targets all day, but until you get the chance to pull the trigger - that's when the rubber really meets the road," he said. "This is about as close to the real thing, without actually getting shot at, as we can get."