News: ‘Every Marine a Rifleman’ during training package in Djibouti
Story by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III
DJIBOUTI -Non-infantry Marines mix it up with their infantry brothers in Djibouti, with both groups becoming more familiar with each other’s roles in a Marine Air Ground Task Force.
A handful of Marines and a sailor with the Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, saw the “other side of the coin” when they assumed an infantry role during a three-week training force package in Djibouti, which took place Sept. 29 through Oct. 16, 2012.
The extensive training package, based in the coastal mountains off the Gulf of Tadjoura, allowed the Marines from CLB-24 to get back to the basics of being an infantry rifleman with their fellow Marines of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, the ground combat element for 24th MEU.
Mixing the training group with Marines from a variety of job fields allowed each Marine to gain an appreciation of each other’s role in the Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force. For Marines of CLB-24, whose primary mission is providing logistics support for the BLT, this opportunity allowed them to gain an understanding of why their support is needed, and how that support is requested.
“It takes them out of the supporting role and puts them in the supported role… now they see the other side of the coin. They know what goes into a resupply, so now they can understand both sides of it,” said Capt. Juan Ramos, officer-in-charge of the training force package. “It gives some shared understanding of what each other does. They are learning from each other.”
The training package forced the Marines through a rigorous medley of training in basic infantry skills, desert survival techniques, endurance courses and concluded with a five-day, force-on-force exercise.
“It’s nice to learn something other than just your job,” said Lance Cpl. Bradley J. McKinney, 21, a motor vehicle operator with CLB-24, and Selinsgrove, Pa., native. “It helps you appreciate your job and what you have. I work with a bunch of different MOS’s (military occupational specialties) in motor-t (transport), so I learn about other jobs, but this is different.”
The logistics Marines learned an array of infantry basics from hand and arm signals used to communicate silently while on patrol to establishing a patrol base and conducting 24-hour operations against another force.
“We always talk about every how Marine is a rifleman, but how often do we really get to apply that. They get to do that here. They practice patrolling, hand and arm signals, awareness; everything a rifleman does they get the chance to do during this training package,” said Master Sgt. Chris Brueggeman, lead instructor of the training cadre.
A friendly rivalry has always existed between the infantry Marines and their counterparts in support and logistics, referred to as ‘persons other than grunts’, or POG (pronounced with the long O sound). However, the infantry Marines ignored the division and welcomed their logistics brethren and mentored them from day one.
“Overall, this has been a good experience,” said Cpl. Kenneth G. Marks, 25, squad leader with Bravo Company, and a Richmond, Va., native. He led the non-infantry squad during the training. “These guys have been real receptive to the training… We’ve treated them just like one of us (infantrymen) throughout the training. No one has tried to put any separation between what we do and what they do.”
Overall, the CLB Marines learned a great deal about field skills, terrain appreciation and dismounted maneuver during their experience while still trying to have fun.
“It’s not every day CLB gets to do this. I’m enjoying it,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew S. Robertson, 22, motor transport specialist and Mount Savage, Md., native.
Cpl. Raphael Padilla, 32, a food service specialist with CLB-24, happily jumped at the opportunity after his gunnery sergeant asked for volunteers from the ship’s galley.
“I definitely feel more like a Marine after doing this. I’ve had fun out here hiking, patrolling, and navigating. I’ve never really had to navigate before. We learn the basics at Marine combat training, but here we’ve really been able to apply those skills. I think that this opportunity was really good for these guys,” said Padilla, a native of Bolivia.
“If I was on ship, I’d be cooking in the galley right now. I’d rather be out here with the Marines doing this. I’ve learned a lot, and it’s been fun,” he said.
The mountain-based training forced the Marines to mentor each other to adapt beyond the basic training and resupply techniques they had conducted previously during unilateral and bilateral exercises throughout the deployment.
“When these Marines do a tactical resupply, they won’t always be able to drive to the drop-off point. They may have to dismount and patrol to the supply point then set security until the infantry Marines come pick up the supplies,” Bruggeman continued.
The training force package offered more than a new understanding of each other’s jobs; it gave them an insight into each other’s lives as well. The Marines bonded over their experience as they learned more about each other and reinforced relationships across the MAGTF.
The 24th MEU is deployed with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group as a theater reserve and crisis response force for U.S. Central Command and the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet area of responsibility. A small contingent of Marines has been ashore in Djibouti since August managing various unilateral, bilateral and joint exercises with other U.S. service members and French forces stationed in Djibouti.