FORT PICKETT, VA. --
Marines sit in their fighting holes, their ponchos and gear covered in frost as watch vigilantly toward the tree line.
They are watching for a well-trained enemy. That enemy, an enemy of legend, Marine sniper teams who inserted into the forests surrounding the small village.
Marines from Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, sat in a defensive position for three days during a training exercise aboard Fort Pickett, Va., Dec. 10, 2010.
The Marines defended the village against the enemy sniper teams and searched for weapons caches.
The Marines had to battle the cold, tough ground, booby traps, and even improvised explosive devices set by the sniper teams. Even at night, when the temperature would drop well below freezing, the Marines would remain vigilant.
“Our biggest challenge was definitely the cold,” said Lance Cpl. Brennan M. Listle, a rifleman and team leader and Watertown, Wisc., native with Fox Company. “Our motivation is pretty high, it’s just cold.”
Much like Marines past, the Marines of the BLT are not ones to just sit around and be hunted. Day and night, they continually launched patrols to locate the caches and snipers.
Their aggressiveness paid off for Fox Company’s first platoon. The Marines were rewarded after locating two sniper teams, a weapons cache and an improvised explosive device in their sector. Once they pulled back from their defensive positions, the platoon enjoyed a warm fire.
“First platoon is aggressive and violent,” said 1st Lt. Conner G. Gentil, the commanding officer of Fox Company and Richmond, Va., native. “From the platoon commander down to the riflemen there was never a hint of negativity or weakness.”
The force-on-force nature of the exercise adds an element of realism that is especially useful as the Marines prepare for their deployment with the MEU in 2011.
“It’s a little more realistic than just sitting around waiting for another platoon to come attack you,” said Pfc. Andrew C. Derron, a rifleman and Jasper, Ind., native with Fox Company. “We had a defense waiting for an enemy. We didn’t know how large they were. We didn’t know where they were, or what they were going to do.”
Gentil added that he was proud of his Marines and the defensive training created a true appreciation for the human dimension due to the cold and facing a skilled, free-thinking enemy.
Fox Company finished their training in the defense and will now move onto the next element of training on Fort Pickett. It will be their last evolution before returning to Camp Lejeune, N.C.
The BLT participated in a two-week training exercise at Ft. Pickett, Va., in preparation for their upcoming deployment with the 22nd MEU.
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are in the early stages of their pre-deployment training program, which is a series of progressively, more complex exercises designed to train and test the MEU's ability to operate as a cohesive and effective fighting force.
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its command element.
Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps' smallest Marine Air-Ground Task Force, commanded by a colonel and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response capabilities in a hostile or crisis mission. While deployed, each MEU also incorporates two KC-130 aircraft available from the continental U.S. to support the unit's operations abroad.
There are seven U.S. Marine Expeditionary Units located around the world with one in Okinawa, Japan, and three on each continental coast of the United States.