CAMP RIPPER, Iraq --
Marines with Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 5 are accustomed to performing their non-infantry jobs well, but sometimes the needs of the Marine Corps require them to get back to the basic rifleman mindset.
More than 30 Marines from Headquarters Co. received training Aug. 28 – Sept. 6 here to prepare for a potential future mission as part of Provincial Rifle Platoon 3.
“We’re taking Marines from every job and putting them in position to be combat Marines,” said 2nd Lt. Randall S. Blowers, 25, information management officer for RCT-5 and platoon commander of PRP-3 from Vernon, Conn. “We’re giving them the tools and the mindset for success on the PRP mission.”
Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Keith, a watch chief for RCT-5, was in charge of the lesson plan for the Marines’ training. Keith has served nine years with 5th Marine Regiment in small-unit leadership billets – first with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, and later with the regimental headquarters – and has plenty of experience to pass on to the Marines.
“I could teach a little bit of everything, but then they would become good at nothing” said Keith, who served as platoon sergeant for Provincial Rifle Platoon 2, which provided security at Camp Gannon II earlier in RCT-5’s deployment. “We worked in more squad leader time into this training package so the squads could work on their own (standard operating procedures).”
In addition to the tutelage from Keith and his instructors, the non-infantry Marines had the benefit of the experience of 14 infantry Marines from 3rd Bn., 5th Marines, who volunteered to come back to Iraq after their battalion redeployed April following a seven-month deployment in western al-Anbar province. The infantry Marines will also serve in PRP-3, many filling fire-team leadership roles, to provide much of the infantry know-how in the platoon.
“I think we’re going to be well-prepared, because the training package we’re doing is an all-encompassing package,” said Lance Cpl. Logan Stone, 23, a rifleman currently assigned to Grizzly Mobile, the Mobile Assault Platoon for RCT-5, and a member of PRP-3 from Kirkland, Wash. “So no matter what happens, we’ll be able to be proficient at it and get the job done.”
The training first encompassed classroom reinforcement of subjects like five-paragraph orders, rules of engagement and escalation of force. The classes were supplemented with practical application time in full gear to let the Marines practice the patrolling, detainee handling and casualty evacuation skills they had learned in the classroom.
“To [develop] an infantry leader, you have to give them time to make mistakes,” Keith said. “Now is the time to learn from your errors, as opposed when you’re out there, outside the wire.”
The Marines made mistakes during the practice time, but the experienced members of the platoon gave them pointers and tweaked the non-infantry Marines’ movements, so after a few tries everyone was on the same page.
The Marines of PRP-3 were also given the opportunity to live-fire a variety of weapons, during both day and night firing conditions.
“During the training, I gained more confidence in being able to use my gear,” said Cpl. Alex R. Raymundo, 23, a data technician with Headquarters Co., and a member of PRP-3 from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. “I’ve always treated marksmanship seriously, but with the training we got, I think I’m ready.”
While the infantry training was highly useful for the purposes of their upcoming mission, perhaps the most important asset developed during the training was unit cohesion, said Keith.
“Considering all these Marines are from different shops, camaraderie is one of the most important things they’ll learn,” said Sgt. Anthony J. Liptok, 22, training non-commissioned officer for RCT-5 from Pottsville, Penn. “We’ve seen in the past two weeks of training that they’ve really come together in their squads within the platoon.”
The headquarters Marines from PRP-3 have been able to take away benefits from the training that will pay long-term dividends far beyond the time they are assigned to their mission.
“These Marines will be better leaders when they go back to their shops,” said Keith. “They’ll be ahead of their peers, and they’ll try that much harder to support the (infantry Marines) because they’ll have experienced it.”
Though the Marines of PRP-3 may not know what their mission is yet, they are a team ready to stand watch in maintaining the security in western al-Anbar province.
“The maturity and attitude of the Marines is outstanding,” said Staff Sgt. Jaime Benavides, 32, PRP-3 platoon sergeant and protocol chief with Headquarters Co. from San Antonio, Texas. “Their motivation level is high, because they are ready to do whatever they are tasked to do.”