News: With the fight in sight: ‘America’s Battalion’ completes training for Afghanistan deployment
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — Sheltered from rumbling explosions by a cascading wall of sand, a platoon of infantrymen impatiently waited to plunge through and respond by assault.
The annoyance ceased and the command to attack spread rapidly down the line. Spurred forward by their leaders’ screams, the Marines waded up the knee-deep obstacle. Focused by adrenaline, they peaked the barrier and charged toward their attackers.
The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, transitioned from clearing a village’s enemy threat to re-building rapport with its citizens during Exercise Clear, Hold, Build 4 on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., from Sept. 26 through 29, 2011.
The counterinsurgency training, part of the Enhanced Mojave Viper exercise, marked the completion of seven months of pre-deployment training for “America’s Battalion.” Next month, they will deploy to Afghanistan’s Helmand province to support combat operations there.
Before the Marines could build rapport and help the villagers, they had to root out enemy fighters. Faced by simulated small-arms and rocket propelled grenade fire, they navigated through blocks of buildings to eradicate their threat.
Dripping with sweat but far from haggard, Lance Cpl. DaJuan Dilworth, a team leader with Weapons Company, 3/3, said the exhausting training tested his Marines to stay positive. With three combat deployments under his belt, he prodded them to maintain pace in light of their mission ahead.
“Every day, the enemy is finding new ways to try and kill us, but we’re finding better ways to counter-attack,” Dilworth said. “We’re not training to quietly bypass them. We’re training to find and destroy them ourselves.”
Four blocks and several hours later, the Marines finished their clearing portion. Thrashed by the scorching mid-day sun, they escorted detainees back to their patrol base on the town’s outskirts. They found shade next to a building, and used a precious moment to replenish the food and water stolen by the desert.
Minutes later, they re-entered the village to continue their mission. As they moved back into their area, two companies of Marines pushed further into the town, weeding out the remaining enemy activity with the support of tanks.
Though the evolution began with force and firepower, the Marines quickly shifted the environment to focus on interaction with the village’s populace — a reflection of what they’ll experience with local nationals and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
With the help of interpreters, the battalion’s leadership held meetings with role-playing Afghan elders, listening to their concerns and gauging how to best help the village. Squads of Marines patrolled through its streets, interacting with citizens to build rapport and gain intelligence on further threats.
“Working with the Afghan role-players gives us a chance to learn how to communicate without speaking words,” Lance Cpl. Justin Turner, a team leader with Weapons Company, 3/3, said.
Turner, from Flower Mound, Texas, said this offered the Marines a valuable opportunity to step into the Afghan culture before deployment. Despite the language barrier, he said working with the role-players here would help ease the Marines into a new world in country.
Though Turner carries scars from the blast of an improvised explosive device last September in Afghanistan, the 21-year-old is eager to re-join the fight with his Marines.
“I’m happy to be going back,” Turner said. “We’ll be in a new area, meet new people and have a fresh start at making a difference. We’ll experience some of the most miserable times there, but when we look back on it, these times will make for the best stories. I want to leave knowing we made Afghanistan a better place to live in, and that the Taliban are no more.”
This work, With the fight in sight: ‘America’s Battalion’ completes training for Afghanistan deployment, by Sgt Reece Lodder, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.