FORT PICKETT, Va. – In preparation for an upcoming deployment to locations throughout Europe and Africa, Marines and sailors with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment conducted a week long field training exercise aboard Fort Pickett, Va., from Nov. 12-17.
This training was the unit’s second battalion-wide training event in preparation for the deployment and consisted of company live-fire supported attacks, fire support training and command post exercises. It preceded a subsequent regimental level rehearsal exercise with 8th Marine Regiment, which took place at several military installations throughout Virginia and North Carolina.
Throughout this week, the battalion focused on core mission essential tasks such as offensive operations, defensive operations and conducting stability operations.
“The purpose of the training was to confirm the ability of India Company, 3/8, to do a combined arms, with attachment, attack,” said Capt. Jim Oliveto, company commander for India Company, referring to his company’s turn with the Infantry Platoon Battle Course aboard Fort Pickett.
The range is normally used for platoon sized events, but the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines used it as a company-level course.
“(The hardest part,) first, was the weather,” he said. “We started the day off at 19 degrees. That was a challenge. It’s by no means a short range. It’s designed for vehicles, so that was a little bit challenging.”
Although chances are that the Marines of India Co. will not be conducting an assault using mortars, rockets and machine guns while deployed, Oliveto explained the importance of conducting ranges and courses such as the IPBC.
“I think it’s vital for any infantry company to do that attack,” said Oliveto. “That’s kind of a pinnacle of what a line company should be able to do.”
During another part of the training, a different group within the battalion received a set of classes and conducted a practical application exercise preparing them for a different type of deployment.
In January 2014, elements of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines will deploy under the banner of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa. Those Marines and sailors will be conducting theater security cooperation missions throughout Africa.
The classes focused on the culture of the countries to be visited, their military and how to use translators and interpreters to be able to communicate with the Marines’ counter parts.
“Most of the focus of what we’ve been (learning) has been centric to the African continent as far as the expectations of what we’re going to see there, what the people are as opposed to what the stereotypes might be through Hollywood, as well as how we can use our skills as Marines to help build relationships,” said 1st Lt. Justin Dentel, a team leader with one of the teams that will be traveling to Africa.
SPMAGTF-Africa is a scheduled deployment of Marines and sailors, manned on a rotating basis by different units throughout the Marine Corps. Currently, the mission is manned by 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, a reserve unit based out of Baltimore. The task force works with partner nations in order to assist U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command in strengthening and building relationships, increasing military capacity and promoting a more stable region.
“The important lesson (we learned) would be to maintain and build on the relationships that have already been established,” Dentel continued. “Those interactions that Marines in the past have had with these people and interactions in the future are very much impacted by what we’re doing now and how we establish ourselves with them and making sure we don’t damage that, but we build upon it.”
The classes were taught by Marines with Marine Security Cooperation Group, or MCSCG, whose mission is to plan, coordinate, and train for similar Marine Corps security cooperation missions throughout the world.
“It’s very good training we received and I do believe that the Marines are well prepared for the upcoming deployment,” added Dentel. “The whole training package has been extremely educational. All the instructors are very professional and knowledgeable.”
After the battalion field exercise ended, the Marines entered the next portion of their training and prepared for the regimental rehearsal exercise.