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1st Recon tangles with Mojave Viper

26 May 2008 | Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp

Roughly two hours after their convoy of humvees and 7-ton trucks left the Spartan conditions of Camp Wilson here, about 40 Marines arrived at their temporary  home:

A flat piece of desert, decorated sparsely with brush and various-sized bullet casings.

In preparation for their upcoming deployment, the Marines, part of the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, have come here to participate in Mojave Viper.

A 30-day pre-deployment requirement for infantry battalions, Mojave Viper trains Marines from all over the Corps in skills they’ll need to operate in the changing environments of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“All Marines, whether they (serve in) administration, supply, intelligence, it’s part of their secondary job to act as infantrymen,” said 1st Sgt. Doug Berry, Headquarters and Service Company’s senior enlisted Marine.

Unloading food and equipment, the men from H&S Co. and the personal security detachment quickly began building the targets they would spend the next three days destroying.

While deployed, H&S Co. uses vehicle convoys to deliver supplies to Marines operating outside the battalion’s central location. While performing their mission, they’ll be in control of their personal security and reacting to any threat.

Lance Cpl. Ryan Minson, a 19-year-old administrative clerk from Bellingham, Wash., quickly learned a valuable lesson from the training.

“You have to communicate and constantly suppress the enemy so he isn’t able to move against you or your buddies,” Minson said.

Minson, a Squalicum High School graduate, said he also saw the importance of “geometries of fire” – a Corps standard that keeps the individual Marine effective without putting the man beside him at risk.

“They have to be able to shoot, move and communicate,” said Berry. “That’s what we’re here to practice this week.”

The personal security detachment, joining H&S Co. for the training, consists mainly of “reconnaissance men” who have a foundation of basic infantry skills, as well as more specialized reconnaissance training.

Able to perform anything from patrols to escorts of key personnel, the detachment trains to operate for a variety of missions.

Today, they’re practicing with pistols. By the last day of the training, they’ll be working in teams with up to four humvees. One Marine will drive each vehicle while another shoots live ammunition from a machine gun, mounted in a turret on the roof.

“That’s what I’m looking forward to,” said Pfc. Dan Beasley, 22, from Santa Cruz, Calif. “Driving while the gunner is shooting right over my head.”

It’s important to practice drills like this now so while deployed overseas, we’ll be used to operating in a stressful environment, Beasley added.

The Marines agreed the live-fire exercises not only helped them learn to work more effectively as a team, but also individually.

“Now, when we get into combat, I’ll be more confident because I have this knowledge and training to work off of,” Minson said.