News: H&HS conducts bivouac, hike aboard MCAS Iwakuni
Story by Cpl. Benjamin Pryer
IWAKUNI, Japan - Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron service members stationed aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, brushed up on their basic combat proficiency skills and slept under the stars during a bivouac and hike that took place at Penny Lake Field March 27 – 28, 2014.
The evolution served to re-familiarize Marines with patrolling techniques, crew-served weapons, field medicine procedures and more training.
“I’ve seen it too often in my career where Marines were not prepared to go down range,” said Lt. Col. F. Lance Lewis, commanding officer of H&HS. “Our (military occupational specialty) does not matter to the Marine Corps, just the fact that we are riflemen. Our day-to-day function is to make this air station run, but I would fail as a commanding officer if I didn’t have young Marines break their gear out of the plastic wrap, know how to put it together and know how it works.”
Lewis mentioned the importance of combat readiness by referencing the 2012 attack on Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, where two Marines from Marine Attack Squadron 211 were killed and several AV-8B Harriers were destroyed.
“I got my (Combat Action Ribbon) when I was with 1st battalion, 2nd Marines during my (Forward Air Controller) tour,” said Lewis, who continued to mention two pictures he had on a wall in his office. “One was the F-5, which symbolized to me that it doesn’t matter what kind of airplane you’re in, what matters is the pilot. I also had my 1 to 50, my (area of operation) from Iraq, to remind me that I am a rifleman. When I looked up from my desk every 10 seconds, that’s what I saw and that is what I was reminded of. To me, it’s near and dear to my heart that we’re ready to go down range.”
Lewis also mentioned the chance that Marines could end up on individual augment billets, such as Sgt. Nicholas Hemm, station S-1 administration chief, who has spent most of his time as a part of H&HS providing security for convoys in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“He showed up there and they didn’t say, ‘oh, you’re an (0111)?’” said Lewis. “They went, ‘oh, you’re a Marine? Great, this is what you guys do.’”
Lewis said he feels the training completed its mission as far as re-educating Marines on patrolling techniques, crew-served weapons, field medicine and more.
“I think this was great, great training,” said Cpl. Radmila Allen, postal noncommissioned officer in charge. “It’s part of doing a self-assessment to know your strengths and weaknesses. For me personally, the toughest part of the exercise was the hike. Having done that hike gives me confidence in knowing that I can hike with a pack that is 70 or 80 pounds.”
For most junior Marines attached to H&HS, this is their first duty station, giving them two to three years between their first taste of combat training at the School of Infantry and their first deployable unit.
“It’s very important that while you’re in a non-deployable unit, you utilize your time to try and get as much training done as possible and take the time to be proficient in areas that you lack strength in,” said Allen. “That way you can be ready at all times.”
Allen, who has served in the Marine Corps for more than six years, recounted her deployments, saying she went to Iraq from August 2008 to March 2009. A year later, she deployed to Afghanistan from March 2010 to March 2011.
“When I deployed in October of 2012 until February of 2013, I went on convoys to about 12 different places,” said Allen. “A majority of my job, when we got there in 2012, was run by civilians. The only portion the Marines did was process mail to and from (forward operating bases). We would convoy from our main FOB to other camps and provide services that are needed for (Marine Corps Community Services), (Post Exchange) and postal.”
Allen said service members received training from the bivouac that could one day come into use in a deployed scenario.
“At any time, one of those convoys could have been hit and we would have had to be physically ready, emotionally ready and known what to do in case of an injury,” said Allen.
Lewis mentioned he has received positive feedback about the training and is considering constructive criticism for ideas to improve combat readiness of his squadron.