MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The youth and inexperience in the eyes and faces of many of the Marines who have been in the Corps barely a year is still apparent to the casual observer. Their facial expressions belie their curiosity about additional training they will receive from their first unit in the Fleet Marine Force. The veterans who have been to Iraq and Afghanistan and the “lifers” - the older Marines who plan on serving for at least 20 years and remember the peacetime deployments to exotic locales - already understand the process for training for war. The training seems more routine for them, as if it has become a daily part of their personal lives.
Less than two months after completing an Iraq combat tour, 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, prepared for deployment to that part of the world. For many of the Marines, it will be their first deployment. For others, it will be their second, or more, mission to Iraq.
“We did 70 plus combat patrols in Iraq,” said Pfc. Coleman Ruster, a native of Oklahoma City, and a Purple Heart recipient assigned to Ground Sensory Platoon, 2nd Intel. “Hopefully, we can get them [Marines who have not deployed to Iraq] up to the point where we were at from what we learned from our missions.”
The training in preparation for deployment to the Middle East was not unique to 2nd Intel. Hundreds of units within the Marine Corps and U.S. military have completed deployment workups prior to leaving for Iraq. At the same time last year, 2nd Intel was in the field learning about convoy operations and practicing with the use of small arms.
“I think the training will be more effective this time,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Phillips, of Keene, N.H., a targeting chief assigned to the unit. “We have better training based upon what we did last year and during the first deployment. Convoy training and weapons employment are two big things we are focusing on.”
For the upcoming mission to Iraq, the unit began training with an emphasis on technology and the rule of law. This portion of pre-deployment training consisted of classes reviewing laws of war and the use of computers for virtual combat simulations.
The lectures covering laws of war and rules of engagement are mandatory for all commands deploying to combat zones so each individual is made aware of the necessity of adhering to those regulations. .
“All commanders have a duty to let their subordinates know what the rules of war are,” said Col. Patrick McDonough, instructor with the base Judge Advocate division. “This class is given to the rules set forth by the Geneva Convention.”
At II MEF simulation center, 2nd Intel Marines huddled over desktop computers during a computer simulation program on convoy operations.
The simulation offers Marines a first-and third-person perspective of the convoy training. The trainees on every other computer use hand-held radios to communicate with each other on the convoy, while programmers at the simulation center pose as virtual insurgents, attacking the convoy with explosives and sniper fire.
Some Marines do not understand the training value of a simulator that does not surround the trainee with the dust, sweat and grime that accompanies a convoy in the field. In reality, the simulated convoy operations give Marines who have never ridden an actual convoy an excellent introduction to this mission by giving an overall perspective to how a mission is planned, coordinated and carried out.
“We have to relay messages, maintain a convoy and deal with threats posed by insurgents,” said Cpl. Jose Trevino, of Pharr, Texas, assigned to Ground Sensor Platoon, 2nd Intel, gearing up for his second deployment. “This is a good way to understand how a convoy works.”