CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Throughout the Global War on Terror and in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, one of the greatest threats Coalition militaries face has been the improvised explosive device. These devices can be made out of nearly anything and can look like nothing more than trash on the side of the road.
Three hundred ninety-five Marines with the Redeployment and Retrograde in Support of Reset and Reconstitution Operations Group [R4OG], 1st Marine Logistics Group, received pre-deployment training aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 10, 2014, to prepare for an upcoming deployment in support of OEF.
“As part of the R4OG, we will be deploying in the near future to support the retrograde in Afghanistan,” said Gunnery Sgt. David J. Guerrero, ammunition chief, R4OG, 1st MLG. “We are going to Afghanistan to identify what we can reuse, bring it back and reallocate it, saving American tax dollars.”
The majority of equipment used during OIF was moved directly to Afghanistan to support OEF, so the equipment has sustained about a decade’s worth of wear and tear.
“At the end of every conflict, we bring our assets and equipment back in order to restore the gear to a like-new condition in preparation for the next conflict that [arises],” said Col. Joseph Whitaker, commanding officer of the R4OG.
The retrograde mission began around 2010, and Marines have been reducing the equipment in Afghanistan ever since. This seven to nine month deployment will begin later this spring. “Not only is it the fifth rotation, this is the final chapter of Marines in Afghanistan,” said Whitaker, a native of Hauppauge, N.Y. “By the end of this year, we are scheduled to have Marines out.”
In order to accomplish this mission, the Marines receive training to properly prepare them, including infantry immersion training, which prepares Marines for combat during their support of the operation, and IED awareness training.
The Marines will operate in an area known for IEDs, which makes it crucial for Marines to be aware of the threat of IEDs and how to identify them.
“Having never deployed before and knowing that these bombs can look like anything and could be anywhere is definitely scary,” said Lance Cpl. Kobe Hoshibata, heavy equipment mechanic, R4OG, 1st MLG.
The training junior Marines received will help build the confidence necessary to carry out any mission. They learned different types of explosives, including remote control, pressure plate and timed IEDs. They also learned common indicators of IEDs, to include disturbed earth and out-of-place objects or wires protruding from the ground.
Several of the Marines have never deployed so the experience will be new to them, and they don’t know exactly what to expect.
“Having deployed twice to Iraq, I know that this training works. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that my junior Marines have been introduced to the reality of this threat,” said Sgt. Raymond Hosch, assistant operations chief, R4OG, 1st MLG.
Guerrero, a native of The Bronx, N.Y., agreed, adding that when he deployed to Iraq, they did not receive this type of training, and unfortunately, learned primarily by trial and error before more was known about the explosives.
Despite the threat, the Marines of R4OG seem optimistic as they prepare to deploy.
“Nobody signed up for the Marine Corps to play football in a field,” added Guerrero. “We joined to go to combat, defend our country and hopefully bring everyone back in one piece. That is what we intend to do on this deployment.”