MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The Marines and sailors of the Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT)and Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Platoons of Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, completed their joint "raid week" April 6, 2007, in preparation for an upcoming deployment.
The two platoons worked together to complete several raid scenarios over four days, all under the tactical supervision of the Marine Corps Special Operations Training Group.
The battalion returned from an Iraq deployment in October and has since added many new faces to their veteran ranks.
"We had a tough job in Ramadi. We were out patrolling the streets every day," said Lance Cpl. William N. Sullivan of Halifax, Mass.
The training reinforced familiar techniques for the veterans and gave the new faces some new lessons.
"Raid week is definitely a tough time. We put a lot of hours into it, but you do get a lot out of it, especially the new guys - especially when you have a big group of new guys like we do," said Sullivan, an assaultman with CAAT "black," one of three CAAT Platoon sections.
CAAT Platoon's new Marines said the training was beneficial and most learned important lessons during the course.
"Raid week was awesome," said one private first class who joined CAAT Platoon in October. "I had never cleared a house before, and learning was awesome. It can get confusing, but I'm getting the hang of it."
Among the company's old salts, like Cpl. Keith D. Turnbow of Long Branch, N.J., the most frequent comment was that the training was good, but it could have been harder.
"This is decent training for the new guys, but it could always be more realistic," said Turnbow, a scout with LAR. "We have a couple new guys straight out of (the School Of Infantry), and they didn't know anything about raid stuff. They learned a lot."
Turnbow cleared many houses during his tour last year in Iraq with 2nd LAR Battalion, he said. The insurgents he encountered there were far more crafty than the role-players they battled during this training.
"I would rather have them go in and see how it is in real life with people hiding in corners and behind furniture," said Turnbow. "Real houses have rooms we would have to figure out how to get into and dark corners you can't see. Insurgents won't leave the front door wide open; they'll barricade themselves inside a house and make it tough."
While the training presented some challenges to the leathernecks, many said they had a good time.
"Raid week is cool, it's kind of fun," said Lance Cpl. Alfonso G. Matos, a Bronx, N.Y. native. "Some of the new guys are coming around, and some of them need a little work. Some of them are young, and they haven't had a hard time in life yet, so I'm trying to break them in as we go along."
Though a young lance corporal himself, Matos is an old hand at whipping his charges into shape. He said he learned what was expected of him in boot camp three years ago, but his two years in the Dominican navy and two consecutive deployments to Iraq are what toughened him up.
"A MEU sounds like a plan," said Matos. "It will be a learning experience. We'll get to see what's going on around the world. I've been on a lot of planes and helicopters, but I've never deployed on a ship."
With the shipboard deployment looming ahead, an often-bantered topic among the Marines was the subject of liberty ports.
"Hopefully, we don't go right back into a combat zone," said infantryman Lance Cpl. William N. Sullivan of Halifax, Mass. "I'd like to see some of Europe or the United Arab Emirates, and have a good time first."
The attitudes were diverse.
"I don't really care about liberty ports," said LAV crewman Lance Cpl. Edward D. Timpson of Anaheim, Calif. "I want to go to Africa or Afghanistan, some place where I haven't been yet, but I can still see some action."
Marines like Timpson and Matos simply wait for their next opportunity to inflict discontent on America's enemies.
The exact location of where the MEU will deploy is yet to be determined; however, Matos is hoping to see more action in Iraq.
"I want to pay a few more respects to the insurgents for leaving me this little gift in my leg," said Matos as he rolled up his pant leg to display a grisly ten-inch scar running down the outside of his calf.
The Marines and sailors of BLT 3/8 are scheduled to deploy as the Ground Combat Element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit later this year. To stay informed on their upcoming training and missions, visit the MEU's website at www.22meu.usmc.mil.