KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- The chatter of machine guns, thumping of mortar rounds, popping of rifles, and shouted orders of squad leaders punctuated the calm twilight hours near Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan as the grunts of Charlie Company further sharpened their combat skills.
Deployed to Afghanistan with the ground combat element of the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), Charlie Company used the opportunity to focus on small unit leadership and live fire training as they assaulted a series of objectives at a training area near the sprawling U.S. base.
"We focused primarily on indirect fire and small unit maneuver training," said 1st Lt. Jeff Gaddy, of Davidson, N.C., one of platoon leaders in Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines. "We pushed everything down to the squad leaders as much as possible."
One of the Marines who bore the brunt of this responsibility was Sgt. Brent Hazelwood, a squad leader in Gaddy's platoon.
According to Hazelwood, a native of Muscatine, Iowa, the most beneficial part of the training was the live fire aspect.
"As we assaulted the objective, there were 60 and 81 millimeter mortars being fired as well as the small arms," he said. "This is something we usually only get to do at CAX [Combined Arms Exercises], so it was a good chance for the Marines to see how it's really gonna be with all the noise and explosions."
Hazelwood went on to say that the training is a continuation of the exhaustive combat preparation the Marines in the MEU have undergone since their arrival in Afghanistan several weeks ago.
"We usually go from five in the morning until ten at night," said Hazelwood. "The Marines are tired, but ready to go [begin conducting operations]."
Both Gaddy and Hazelwood agree that it will be the squad leaders and small unit leaders who will make the difference between success and failure in the future.
"When push comes to shove, it'll come down to the squad and fire team leaders to get the job done," said Hazelwood.
Charlie Company spent two days at the training site and returned to Kandahar where they resumed their intense training regimen.
In addition to BLT 1/6, the 22d MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22. The unit will be in Afghanistan for an undetermined length of time conducting combat and civil military operations under the operational control of Combined Joint Task Force 180.
For more information on the 22d MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.