TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA, UNITED STATES
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - A dust cloud quickly developed behind 3rd Platoon’s convoy on its race toward a small, concrete village hidden away in the desert here.
The loud, rolling wall of steel rumbled through the desert bristling with guns.
An explosion erupted on the side of the road. An unspoken reflex ran through the line of vehicles and punishing volleys of machinegun fire burst from the convoy’s gunners as Transportation Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, neutralized a simulated ambush at the edge of the town, May 22.
“We moved fluently, got their quick and efficient, fired on targets and suppressed the enemy,” said Cpl. Charlie Bliss, a gunner on one of the convoy’s armored trucks, as he bluntly recalled the series of events.
The vehicles created a moving, firing wall of metal as M240 and M2 .50 caliber machine guns chewed through ammunition and spent hot brass shell casings fell into the sand.
Targets quickly fell more than 400 yards from the Marines, and the engagement ended as suddenly as it began.
“The hardest part is being sure you practice to every scenario they can possibly come up with so when they do surprise you it comes out that you know what to do,” said 2nd Lt. Jarrod C. Birney, a Topeka, Kan., native and 3rd Platoon’s commander.
It’s been a long road for Birney’s group of Marines, whose team coalesced over the course of several months of training exercises at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Fort Pickett, Va., and now Twentynine Palms, Calif.
“My platoon was maybe a third of the size [earlier],” recalled Birney. “All the training we’ve done … it’s leaps and bounds. I can now tell them just the scheme of maneuver I want, and they can execute it. They don’t even need guidance other than that – as a platoon commander, that’s all you can ask for.”
The line of trucks and mine-resistant vehicles pressed through the desolate training town with silent but still warm guns.
Every Marine prepared instinctively for what would come next. Somewhere along their path, the Marines knew a simulated IED would detonate and engulf the road in black smoke.
The explosion struck just past the finger of a nearby mountain. Instructors marked five casualties in a nearby truck, and Birney organized a response.
"The biggest challenge is communication,” said Birney. “Everybody within the vehicle is paying attention to the [communication equipment] and their individual part. The driver pays attention to the road. The gunner pays attention out to the max effective range of their weapons system.”
The Marines prepared the casualties and set up a landing zone for a helo-based evacuation. The team practiced the same procedure the night before during their pre-convoy drills.
"Doing it here is more like Afghanistan [with] the weather and terrain,” said Bliss, a Tunkhannock, Pa., native, who helped relay information from his turret. "I'm walking away with a better feel of how we’re going to operate on deployment.”
The line of vehicles rolled off the course nearly four hours after departing. A fresh layer of powdered dust and sand caked the vehicles’ windows and the Marines’ faces.
“It's bringing me closer to the Marines … and the Marines closer to me,” said Birney. “They have a lot of fun with it. To see all of them having fun and still being able to execute correctly is just great – that’s probably the best feeling.”
||TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA, US
||TOPEKA, KS, US
||TUNKHANNOCK, PA, US
This work, Mount Up! CLB-6 rolls through motorized training, by Sgt Paul Peterson, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.