News: Marines spend week at Fort Irwin to maintain combat readiness
Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Moore
ARMY NATIONAL TRAINING CENTER FORT IRWIN, Calif. – Soldiers welcomed Marines with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion after they traveled 175 miles from their home in Camp Pendleton to Fort Irwin to execute a weeklong field exercise. The training incorporated vehicle maneuvers, squad ambushes and tow missile shoots on the base ranges during Nov. 18 through the 24.
The purpose of the training was to prepare the Marines for long distance road marches, live fire training, night maneuvers and train on unknown terrain. Some of the challenges the Marines adapted to were training in rain, cold weather, unfamiliar ranges and getting only a few hours of sleep each night.
“A lot of the Marines are new, but they are really smart,” said Sgt. Christopher McCune, a chief scout with Alpha Company. “They pick up tactics fairly easily. Getting them out here is reinforcing the fact that they’re going to have to learn quickly.”
The scouts’ mission was to provide ground reconnaissance for the commanding general or regimental commanders. They patrolled the ranges slowly and silently, advancing on mock enemy positions. When given the command, the squad leaders led their fire teams in an assault on the enemy, firing AT-4 light anti-armor weapons, M203 grenade launchers while repelling counterattacks. The LAV crewmen conducted tow missile shoots, individual advanced live fire exercises and section and platoon sized field training.
“Out here, the two can bring all that together,” said Lt. Col. Gilbert Juarez, the 1st LAR commanding officer. “The scouts are focusing on scout training and the crews are focusing on gunnery training. When they go on reconnaissance training, they will be able to pull all those tasks together and work as a team.”
First Marine Division is ready to deploy rapidly and 1st LAR is part of the element that is first to deploy, Juarez said.
“We have to be a force in readiness, and it never stops,” said Juarez. “We get to a certain level of proficiency and then have a turnover of people, so we have to continue to relearn the skills that we’re learning out here today. In a few months we’ll be out here conducting some of the same training. We can’t complete our mission as Marines if we’re not ready.”
Juarez said the exercise helped prime the Marines as they prepare to deploy Charlie Company with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The battalion will continue to support the MEUs by deploying companies. The training is also a preparation step for Exercise Steel Knight, which will take place in December.
Training at Fort Irwin was beneficial to the Marines because they were able to use the large ranges the base has to offer. It is important for the Marine Corps and the Army to have good relations so they can train on each other's bases when the need arises, said David Booher, the range control officer with Training and Support Division.
“Joint training is the way of the future for the military,” said Booher. “It benefits all services. They learn how to work together and how they do business. The value of Marines training on an Army base is seeing terrain they’ve never seen before, which is how it would be in a combat situation.”
While training at Fort Irwin, the Marines learned the requirements they need to meet to train on an Army base, said Juarez. He hopes to take those lessons back and put them in an after action report for the division so they can be better prepared when the Marines come out here in the future.
Booher said it was a pleasure having Marines with 1st LAR stay at Fort Irwin for a week and he looks forward to working with them again.