MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina -- Marines with 2nd Assault Amphibious Battalion faced rain, mud and enemy attacks during a week-long battalion field exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., January 22 to 28, 2015.
The exercise helped the battalion get into the swing of things after a pause in training seen by many units in the Marine Corps around the start of the New Year. The operations began with movement over water and land in the unit’s assault amphibious vehicles to train for and simulate ship-to-shore transportation.
During the exercise, the Marines encountered obstacles in their communications and logistical operations such as heavy rain and low temperatures, lending more credence to the old military saying, “If it’s not raining, we’re not training.”
“We’re getting back in the saddle after the holiday break and starting the year off with some good training,” said Cpl. Maximilian Musick, an electronic systems technician with the battalion. “We’re getting uncomfortable, cold and wet, but we’re getting the job done in spite of that.”
Attacks by insurgent role-players using blank ammunition and small explosives to simulate artillery rounds added stress to the exercise. Smoke grenades replicating chemical and biological weapons added complexity to the defensive maneuvers forcing the Marines to quickly don their M40 field protective masks to protect them from the potential threat.
A perimeter of vehicle-mounted sentries with Mk-19 automatic grenade launchers, armed logistical convoys and constant communication helped defend against such attacks. Though the grenade launchers were not used in the defensive scenarios, looking out from the turrets and understanding the angles from which they can be fired was an important step toward qualifying with the weapon systems for the newer Marines.
“If you don’t have security, you can’t operate anywhere,” said Cpl. Christopher Berneski, an AAV crewman. “You always have to be watching and aware of everything that’s going on. You have to train like you fight or you’re going to get lazy.”
Maintaining amphibious units is vital to the naval expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps, and maintaining the readiness and standards of every Marine ensures high performance and fast deployment capabilities.
“Assault amphibian battalions are absolutely important,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Dibble, the adjutant of Headquarters Company, 2nd AA Bn. “They allow Marines to get from ship to shore, establish a strong position and continue the fight. These exercises allow us to know that we can fight and deploy at any time, on really short notice.”
The exercise tested the battalion’s operations skills when operating together, which is uncommon for a unit that usually trains as individual companies and operates with infantry units.
“Training as a battalion requires the companies to be more flexible,” said Dibble. “They cannot just plan their own exercise and go execute. [The exercise] confirms that this battalion is ready to fight and win in any clime or place. It confirms that we are able to command and control ourselves and are not limited to just sending our companies out to the infantry battalions.”
This was the first training exercise of the year, and later operations will include more amphibious landings, operations with U.S. Navy ships and weapon qualifications with Mk-19s to provide a greater range of learning opportunities for Marines of all experience levels.