RAWAH, Iraq --
Marines with Provisional Rifle Platoon 3, Regimental Combat Team 5 assumed full control of security overwatch duties for Traffic Control Point 3 and 4 near Rawah, Iraq.
The platoon took charge of the TCPs from 1st Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, RCT-5. The Fox Co. platoon returned to its battalion headquarters at Combat Outpost Rawah. After just a few days of being in full control, learning the responsibilities of the post and the site-specific nuances at the two TCPs, the PRP Marines felt confident in their ability to take the reins.
"There's only so much training Marines can do before they have to experience things firsthand," said Staff Sgt. Jaime Benavides, 32, platoon sergeant, PRP-3, from San Antonio, Texas. "I have high confidence in these Marines."
While the previous platoon occupying the TCPs was made up entirely of infantrymen from 2nd Bn, 2nd Marines, most of the Marines with PRP-3 have no infantry experience and hold support military occupational specialties such as administrative clerk and data technician. But while the ground combat element experience may be limited in the platoon, there is no lack of motivation with these Marines.
"I like my squad," said Sgt. Dante R. Sevieri, 24, a squad leader with PRP-3 and a data technician with RCT-5, from Castro Valley, Calif. "Everybody seemed to catch on pretty quick. We've got a good group of guys, everybody knows what they're doing and everybody's got a good attitude."
"I'm quite confident that we can provide security and win the battle," said Cpl. Hue Moua, 23, a rifleman with PRP-3 and an administrative clerk with RCT-5, from Auburn, Wash. "I think our skills are below average compared to an infantryman, because of all the training they do, but I know my sectors of fire, I know escalation of force procedures and I know what to do on patrols."
The squad leader and police sergeant positions for PRP-3 were assigned to the sergeants in the platoon, who are experienced in their MOSs, but not as experienced in leading Marines in infantry environments.
"I was definitely nervous going on the first patrol, but now I feel pretty comfortable with doing patrols," said Sgt. Justin Sweda, 23, police sergeant with PRP-3 and an administrative clerk with RCT-5 from Joliet, Ill.
"I've learned a lot about what I need to do as a squad leader," said Sevieri. "I know how to plan a patrol, what routes we'll be taking, what marching order we'll be in, and then while on the patrol, how to set the dispersion and cover the avenues of approach."
The leaders of PRP-3 received the platoon's orders about 10 days before the Marines departed Camp Ripper for TCPs 3 and 4. Though the mission was uncertain until then, their previous training was aimed at giving the Marines a broad base of the basics of ground combat instruction.
"They've done well on their first few patrols, including finding a 155 mm (artillery) round," Benavides said. "They've applied (escalation of force) procedures when they needed to."
"Everybody looks forward to going out on patrols," Sevieri said. "After a week of patrolling, we are more familiar with the area and know the different routes. We can identify if anything is unusual or suspicious."
Some squads patrol the urban areas north side of the river, including the peninsula in Old Rawah, while other squads cover the largely farmland area on the south banks of the Euphrates. The people there are, by and large, friendly to the Marines.
"The greatest asset we have is the Marines," said 2ndLt. Randy Blowers, 25, platoon commander of PRP-3 and information management officer with RCT-5, from Vernon, Conn. "They are eager to learn, eager to get out there. I'm extremely impressed with the Marines."
The adage "every Marine is a rifleman" certainly applies to the leathernecks in PRP-3. Each non-infantry Marine brings his MOS knowledge to the plate – helping the platoon with communications, motor transport operations or cooking – but they all embrace the opportunity to live as infantrymen, at least for a little while.
"I'm loving this; this is the reason you join the Marine Corps," Blowers said. "I accepted my commission to be a lieutenant to lead a platoon of Marines, and I'm thrilled to get the chance to do so."
"We're all Marines," Moua said. "When we work together, we can accomplish any mission."