Fort Pickett, Va. --
The Marines walk through the woods; not strolling – not stalking. Dispersed through the trees, through fog and gun smoke, they look tense as they approach the objective. Without warning, a mock booby trap explodes, and the Marines of 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Company K, Battalion Landing Team 3/2, engage targets in the village ahead, firing and advancing.
On Sept. 12, Marines of Company K participated in the culmination of days of training – a live fire squad assault on a village laid against a creek with known hostile combatants. Planned, briefed, executed and led from the start by the squad leaders, the exercise was aimed at honing the skills of the individual squads.
“If you have good teams, you have good squads. If you have good squads, you have good platoons,” said Cpl. Patrick Collopy, a squad leader with BLT 3/2 from Fort Thomas, Ky. This exercise follows a series of other training evolutions, beginning with training skills focused on the individual Marine, moving to teams, and now aimed at improving squad skills.
“We’re at the point where the squad leaders run the show,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Wartchow, Weapons Platoon platoon sergeant from Doylestown, Pa. “This way, the platoon commander doesn’t have to worry about one squad. He can focus on the mission.”
All of this allows the Marines and sailors of BLT 3/2 to better prepare for the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s upcoming deployment. “The MEU is a force in readiness, and Fort Pickett gets us ready for whatever we encounter on a much larger scale,” said Sgt. John Margaritondo, machine gun section leader with Weapons Platoon from St. Petersburg, Fla. “It allows us to focus on the task at hand, which is getting ready for any and everything the world can throw at us.”
“As a battalion landing team, we’ll be able to land anywhere on earth, hit those littorals hard, and have full confidence in our squad leaders to carry out the commander’s intent,” said 2nd Lt. Ryan Moore, commander of Weapons Platoon from Amesbury, Mass. “The company, ultimately, will fight squads. We put a lot of trust in our squad leaders to execute the commander’s intent.”
Company K and the rest of BLT 3/2 will continue training, alongside the rest of the 26th MEU, to take up the mantle of America’s expeditionary force in readiness with their upcoming deployment.