MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, NC -- Marines from Company K, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (BLT 3/8), completed a motorized raid course April 6, 2007. The course was part of the unit’s training for an upcoming deployment with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit later this year.
“The enemy has AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, the typical equipment they’ve had every night,” said Sgt. Don R. Albarado, of New Orleans, La., during a pre-mission brief, March 30. “Tell your Marines to plan on getting their feet wet because we’re going straight across the creek; if it’s six feet deep, it’s six feet deep.”
Albarado and the rest of Company K overcame many such obstacles during their recent raid week.
Following a week of hands-on instruction from the Special Operations Training Group, they put their skills to the test and ransacked weapons caches, razed improvised explosive device laboratories, and rescued hostages during the four-raid training evolution.
Though the Marines faced obstacles like strength-sapping cold, endless swamps and a constant (simulated) enemy threat, the training paid big dividends in combat experience.
“You can only plan so far ahead and get things as smooth as possible during rehearsals,” said Lance Cpl. Chris M. Hudak, a 3rd Platoon team-leader. “When you actually get there and run the operation, wrenches are always thrown into the system. The most important thing out here is thinking on your feet.”
Hudak served as an infantryman during 3/8’s last deployment to Ramadi, Iraq. He brings first-hand experience to the Marines in his charge.
“The more chaos we throw at them now, the better they’ll handle pressure when it counts,” said Hudak. “It was good training for the Marines out here, especially for the new Marines who haven’t deployed yet.”
The company is meeting the challenge of training many new Marines head on, said Lance Cpl. Anthony J. Grasso, another team-leader from 3rd Platoon. The training has been tough at times, but he has seen major improvements in his Marines.
“The majority of our platoon was a boot-drop from the School of Infantry, and we only have a few senior guys on deck,” said Grasso, a native of Hackestown, N.J. “When we first came out here, the new guys didn’t really know what they were doing. As soon as they had a couple classes with SOTG, we could tell that they were actually doing what they learned. They got locked on pretty quicky.”
Along with the challenge of teaching new Marines how to conduct themselves in a combat environment, Grasso said he has also been faced with the challenge of motivating his Marines through the tough training.
“It’s definitely tougher being a team-leader for a bunch of new guys who didn’t know how to do anything as opposed to guys who have done room clearing and already knew what was expected of them,” said Grasso. “It’s a little bit easier being a team-leader for experienced guys.”
The two-time Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran has fought in Ramadi, and Nassir Wa Al Salaam, Iraq, and is familiar with the element of boredom, he said. Though some parts of the evolution required repetitive tasks, he used his experience to motivate and help his Marines take advantage of the exercise.
Grasso said that at one point he noticed Marines rushing through a building that they had practiced clearing several times.
“We realized that they were getting bored so we created new situations,” he said. “We started throwing curve-balls at them.”
One of those “curve-balls” was for the instructors to tell the Marines they had the wrong house.
“Immediately we could tell that it worked, because they would sprint across the street, clear rooms and use the techniques properly. It changed it up for them, and made it new again,” said Grasso.
Lance Cpl. Brodey W. Vann, a squad-leader with 1st Platoon, agreed that the training has radically improved the new Marines’ performances.
Vann attributes much of the improvement to the use of 9 mm marking ammunition, or “sim rounds,” used in the Marine Corps’ version of a high-speed paintball match.
“With the sim rounds, you can actually see who becomes a casualty,” said Vann, a Pinellas Park, Fla., native. “It’s important training for the squad-leaders on down.”
The Marines and sailors of BLT 3/8 are currently preparing for an upcoming deployment with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, where they will serve as the Ground Combat Element. Company K acts as the motorized raid force of the BLT. To stay informed on their upcoming training and missions, visit the MEU’s website at www.22meu.usmc.mil.