Recon Marines keep mobile with custom training

12 Mar 2008 | Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp 1st Marine Division

Sometimes weapons don’t need ammunition.

The idea of using a vehicle as a tool was driven into the heads of Marines from Company D, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, during a Custom Mobile Force Protection course last month.

The week-long training in Melbourne, Fla., focused on the importance of mobility in a combat environment. Working with Gryphon Group Security Solutions, Inc., the reconnaissance men got plenty of hands-on experience behind the wheel.

“Immobility equals vulnerability,” said Steven Holtrop, 28, a senior instructor with Gryphon Group. “About 90 percent of incidents in Iraq are happening in the mobile environment.”

If service members stop their vehicles during an ambush or improvised explosive device attack, they’re not maximizing the tools available.

They’re staying right where the enemy wants them, Holtrop added.

With that idea in mind, the Marines headed to Gryphon Group’s driving course for some “practical application.”

The training quickly became more realistic as Marines smashed, skidded and forced their way through the course.

After learning individual techniques, like “dead-driver takeovers” and “vehicle commandeering,” the Marines were tested - with instructors chasing and ramming them the entire way.

“It’s important to understand how far a vehicle can be pushed and what you can do in it, no matter how badly it’s been damaged,” said Sgt. David Nisbeth, 22, reconnaissance man from Mammoth, Calif.

After ensuring the Marines were proficient at evasive driving, instructors stepped up the training.

Teams of two reconnaissance men had to bail out of their vehicle at the end of the driving portion and maneuver about 100 feet through a mock urban environment.

To simulate the adrenaline rush of combat as much as possible, Gryphon Group instructors used a “pain incentive.”

Under the watchful eyes of instructors and their platoon sergeant, each pair of Marines bailed out of their vehicles while two instructors with high-powered paintballs engaged them with automatic fire.

Based on a possible worst-case scenario, Marines loaded only 25 rounds of simunitions to suppress the “enemy,” while the instructors’ supply of ammo was unlimited.

“Those drills were my favorite part,” said Cpl. Nicholas Rumple, 20, reconnaissance man from Winamac, Ind.

“Any training we do to help us react to our weaknesses or vulnerabilities is irreplaceable,” he added. “I was able to see both my personal response to stressful situations, as well as my team’s.”

Situational awareness - knowing your enemy, environment and yourself - proved itself to be a reoccurring theme.

“The best part for me was working on stress control while under fire,” Nisbeth said. “I learned how to control my adrenaline, improve situation awareness and better maneuver on an urban battlefield.”

The training continued another four days as Marines worked on other skills.

Moving in a convoy, Marines drove through mock-Iraqi streets before being struck with “IED’s” and ambushed by at least five aggressors.

Instructors also conducted classes on the AK-47 assault rifle, giving Marine’s trigger time with their enemy’s primary weapon.

In response to requests from Company D, Gryphon Group also worked with the Marines on off-road driving techniques. The instruction covered various techniques and angles of approach to maximize the effectiveness of the vehicles capabilities.

On another range, Marines were given .45 and 9 mm pistols. Working their way up from the basics, they spent half the day engaging targets through car windows and moving vehicles.

The Marines here said training like the Mobile Force Protection is necessary due to the type of asymmetrical warfare confronting the U.S. troops today.

“In our job, we have to be a jack of all trades,” Nisbeth said. “You really don’t know what you’re going to have to do next.”

1st Marine Division