TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. – Emplaced in an escarpment of lava rocks, exhausted Marines stood fully alert as the last remaining light dipped below the horizon. Over the past month, their combat skills were tested over countless exercises to prepare them for the last combat deployment to Afghanistan. It was their last night on post and they expected the worst.
The Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 1, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, were participating in the Marine Readiness Exercise aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., from March 24-26. The exercise was the culminating event of the month-long Integrated Training Exercise 3-14, which prepared them for a deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The MRX is the culminating event of the ITX and evaluates the Marines and sailors on the skills, tactics and procedures they developed since the ITX began on Feb. 28.
“MRX is an example of the progression of training the Logistics Combat Element receives out here,” said Gunnery Sgt. Benjamin M. Brandhorst, logistics operations training chief, Tactical Training Exercise Control Group. “It shows that the LCE is not just enablers of the other elements, but grant a training audience on their own.”
During the 72-hour evaluation, all elements of the battalion were put to the test day and night. Transportation Support Company conducted combat logistics patrols and transported Engineer Support Company who constructed a forward patrol base beyond friendly lines. At the combat logistics support area, the guard force defended the base from enemy attacks while the combat operations center exercised command and control.
“Our intent is to prepare them to face the adverse conditions they will face supporting Operation Enduring Freedom,” added Brandhorst, a 32 year-old native of Cincinnati.
The ITX, designed to prepare units for future combat operations in Afghanistan, combines the ground, logistics and air combat elements of a Marine Air Ground Task Force and evaluates the participating units on their ability to support potential operations while deployed.
“The great part of ITX, is that the exercise aims to take an LCE and make them an employable unit, ready to maneuver and execute combat logistics support in a battle space,” said Maj. John M. Moore, executive officer, CLB-1, and native of Newton, Mass.
Although not directly supporting any units, the missions tasked during the MRX simulated realistic operations the Marines may face while supporting 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, in Afghanistan. To make the operations more realistic, TTECG utilizes role-players to act as foreign nationals and realistically interact with the servicemembers.
“Interacting with the role-players makes the training feel real,” said Cpl. Christopher D. Mosser, motor transportation operator, TSC, CLB-1. “It makes the MRX a great training exercise. The junior Marines had very little training before and this gave them a firm knowledge base of what they’re getting into when they deploy.”
The Marines and sailors were also faced with a number of other scenarios including indirect and direct fire attacks, vehicle bourn IEDs, assaults and civil affairs missions. All of which are real-world problems the Marines could face as they conduct demilitarization operations in Afghanistan.
“Our job during [the exercise] was to be the first responders; to get casualties out of the kill-zone if they are hit by an IED,” said Sgt. Yazid Beltran, licensing noncommissioned officer and vehicle recovery team leader, TSC, CLB-1. “This field [exercise] is a lot different than my normal role in my [military occupational specialty]. Myself and the Marines under my charge have learned a lot of skills from the training. I feel confident that we are ready,” added the 31-year-old native of Paterson, N.J.
Confidence was not short of hand as the exercise came to a close. After completing their final exercise and meeting their essential mission tasks, the battalion was officially ready to deploy.
“Marines and sailors are performing beyond all expectations,” said Lt. Col. Joon Um, commanding officer, CLB-1. “They have excelled at every endeavor and every member of the battalion has given 110 percent, taking on the challenges of this exercise,” added the 43-year-old native of Harrington Park, N.J.