YUMA, Ariz. -- Whether a vehicle hits an improvised explosive device or comes under heavy enemy fire, Marines need to be ready for anything during convoys in a combat zone.
To prepare for scenarios they may encounter, Marines with Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, train months prior to deploying during Weapons Tactics Instructors course here, Sept. 24, 2013.
“A majority of our Marines have never even done a vehicle operation before,” said Sgt. Michael Nibler, a squad leader with Baker Co. “A few of the Marines in our company came from previous units who have done entire combat deployments in nothing but vehicles, but we also have junior Marines here who have never even been inside some of the vehicles we use during mounted patrols. My goal with these Marines is to get all of them to be proficient and comfortable working with these vehicles so when we deploy, they can focus on the job they have at hand and these vehicles will be second nature.”
The Marines drove two Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicles and two armored Humvees to a turnaround point nearly an hour away and then returned to their starting point. The convoy halted multiple times to simulate different situations such as a vehicle breaking down or hitting an IED. The training was designed to be a basic introduction for patrolling with vehicles.
“The preparation that the Marines are doing out here is the standard they’ll fall to in combat,” said 1st Lt. Mike Lashutka, the Baker Co. executive officer and a native of San Diego. “Like people always say, you’ll fall to the level of your training, but you’re never going to rise to the occasion. And by them training for what they are going to potentially see overseas, as long as they build the right habit, it’s exactly what they’re going to be doing when situations arise.”
The Marines were also tasked with treating simulated casualties from IEDs during multiple halts of the convoy. Critical decision making and immediate action can determine if a casualty survives and can prevent others from becoming casualties.
As the senior Marine on the convoy, Nibler, a native of Seattle, supervised the Marines actions and corrected any deficiencies on the spot.
“The training we do back here is vital because if you don’t get this training now, it’s a lesson you have to learn in combat,” Nibler said. “We’re trying to do as much as we can before we deploy to simulate any problems we may see out there, so when we do deploy we already have a solution for them.”
The vehicle commanders also practiced reactive techniques for scenarios such as if the middle vehicle stuck an IED or the lead vehicle broke down.
After each platoon of Baker Co. finished their convoy training, the platoons conducted a thorough debrief on what they handled well and what they could improve.
“We have to take advantage of the time we have before we deploy to correct all of the deficiencies so we don’t make the same mistakes in country,” Nibler said. “We still have a long way to go to get these Marines fully trained, but we’re on the right path and I’m confident we will be an effective force when we do deploy.”
The Baker Co. Marines plan to continue mounted patrol training in the months ahead before deploying to Afghanistan during spring.