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Squad rushes take Marines to next level

15 Apr 2009 | Lance Cpl. John M. McCall 1st Marine Division

Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment completed the final event of Mojave Viper with an urban assault exercise Apr. 2.

The month-long training evolution, known as Mojave Viper, is the Marine Corps’ pre-deployment training package that teaches Marines the skills and tactics for operations in a desert environment.

“It was definitely a smoker. We’ve never trained in a place like this,” said Lance Cpl. Troy J. Martin, 20, a rifleman with Company B, 1st Bn., 5th Marines, from Pekin, Ill.  “It’s definitely helping us prepare for (a deployment to) Afghanistan.”

The three-day final exercise had the battalion setting up security posts and forward operating bases around a mock Afghan town.  Marines performed day and night operations in the town and surrounding areas.

“We saw how clear-hold-build exercises come into play on a much bigger level as a battalion,” said Martin. “Our main goal was to learn how to interact with the local population and foreign army and police.”

Marines trained for stability and support operations similar to those they will be performing once the battalion deploys to Afghanistan later this year.

“Everything that we’ll be doing in the months ahead was crammed into these few days,” said Lance Cpl. Joey Havlicek, 21, a squad automatic weapon gunner with Company B, from Phoenix. “Getting used to not sleeping, firing my rifle while my buddies are running all over the place and dealing with foreign law enforcement helped (me) prepare (for our deployment).”

Feeling constantly drained and under pressure, Marines were pushed to their limits as if they were in an actual combat zone.

“The best thing about Mojave Viper was seeing the different leadership styles come out when rounds are going down range and how people reacted when put under pressure,” said Havlicek.  “This training has definitely brought us closer together, we’re a lot more tight-knit now.”

After a month of training, Marines are ready for the fight, but still a little unsure of the challenges ahead.

“I’m a little nervous. It’s my first deployment and I’m not sure what to expect, but I feel confident,” said Martin. “It’s going to be hard, there’s going to be times when you’re not going to want to be there and you just want to go home, but I’m sure it will be worth it.”

1st Marine Division