SIERRA DEL RETIN, SPAIN --
Marines with Easy Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted patrol base operations aboard Sierra Del Retin, Spain, June 24, 2011.
The training was a part of the Spanish Amphibious Bilateral Exercise, also known as PHIBLEX, a 10-day bilateral training evolution involving Marines from the 22nd MEU training alongside Spanish Marines from Third Mechanized Landing Battalion, increasing relations and interoperability between the Spanish and U.S. forces.
The Marines occupied patrol bases on the sides of the steep Spanish hills. The thick, green cover hid them from the eyes of their enemies.
“Patrol base operations are very important,” said Lance Cpl. Arturo M. Alegria, a team leader and Chicago native with Easy Company. “It’s mainly our job to provide a constant security to our area with those patrols.”
It was every platoon for itself for the nearly 36 hours they operated from their patrol bases. They sent out security patrols, established ambushes and called in simulated fire support against each other. Machine gunners watched vigilantly from their positions, hoping to catch an unsuspecting patrol.
“We had a great spot, probably the best you could hope to find,” said Alegria, a member of first platoon. “We stumbled on more than a few of the other platoons’ observation posts and just destroyed them.”
They barely slept, trying to keep an upper hand on the other platoons, all to prepare themselves for what might one day be reality.
“Everybody’s really tired, but it’s all worth it,” said 1st Lt. Stephen T. Desmond, a platoon commander and Scituate, Mass., native, with Easy Company. “Nobody really sleeps during patrol base operations.”
Most of the Marines from the company have deployed before and found themselves operating out of small patrol bases, searching for the enemy. Though the Marines may refer to it as, “getting back to the basics,” it is a fundamental part of being an infantryman.
Long patrols, little sleep and constant alertness can strain an untrained Marine and it is imperative they take the time to practice these scenarios.
“In order to teach the junior Marines about the importance of rotation and rhythm, we set up patrols and have patrol bases and we get back to the basics,” said Alegria. “We also get them used to sleep deprivation by rotating the Marines from post to long patrols.”
The Marines are deployed with the 22nd MEU and could find themselves in a conflict at any time. So, they must use every opportunity to continue to prepare themselves and their younger Marines for the rigors of combat.
“The patrol base ops were very successful,” said Desmond. “We enjoy getting out to the field. We’re filthy right now but it’s all worth it.”
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are currently deployed with Amphibious Squadron 6 aboard the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group serving as a flexible, formidable and potent force who continues to train and improve their capability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task Force.
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission, capable force, commanded by Col. Eric J. Steidl and comprised of an Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); a Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; a Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its Command Element.
Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps’ smallest permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force, and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response to hostile environment or crisis.