MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Marines serving with Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, conducted a live-fire exercise to master basic combat skills on Range 210F here, Oct. 23.
The exercise is designed to train and evaluate Marines on weapons techniques and prepare them for team and squad level, live-fire training.
The Marines started the training with classes on the weapon systems they employed throughout the exercise. They fired light anti-armor weapons, M203 grenade launchers and threw live grenades.
"We started with individual training and moved to fire teams," said Sgt. Rolando Morales, the chief scout for Alpha Co., and a native of Chicago. "Then we integrated the teams into squads. The squads conducted land navigation, moving from one station to another."
At each station, the Marines were evaluated on different tasks they performed. They conducted breaches on mock enemy positions, performed ambushes and occupied patrol bases.
The Marines rehearsed each drill with empty magazines to understand what they needed to do before firing live ammunition. It is important for Marines to conduct live-fire training so they can experience being in situations similar to a combat environment, Morales said.
"We can only get so far with a dry run," said Pfc. Michael De Vries, a rifleman with Alpha Co., and a native of Rhinebeck, N.Y. "Even with blanks, it's not enough. We have to have those loud sounds. It makes everyone strain their voice, because on the battlefield, it's going to be a lot louder."
The Marines were given one live grenade after the dry runs. They sprinted in groups of four approximately 200 yards to a grenade pit while wearing their flak jackets, Kevlar helmets and holding their rifles. One at a time, they stepped into the pit with an instructor, prepped the deadly weapon, threw it as far as they could and took cover behind sandbags.
Fighting fatigue was also part of the training. They had only a few hours of sleep each night and moved throughout the day, carrying rocket systems and machine guns. They fought their exhaustion with the help of their noncommissioned officers, who were beside the junior Marines motivating them during the exercise.
"The way the junior Marines get through it is because their NCOs are right there with them doing the same thing they're doing," said Capt. Bryan Zuppinger, the Alpha Co. commander, and a native of Buffalo, N.Y. "They're setting the example, and everything that's asked of the junior Marines, they're doing it with them. That's how they get by. It's a collective effort."
The Alpha Co. Marines continue to hone their abilities on the weapon systems, train as a squad and master basic combat skills. When the company comes together, they'll prove 1st LAR, nicknamed the Highlanders, are a deadly force.