CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted their first field training exercise this year at Red Beach aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 6-10, gearing up for pre-deployment training with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit this fall.
The exercise allowed CLB-15 to practice procedures and protocols they will apply while acting the 15th MEU’s primary logistical support element during its deployment early next year. Providing this support to the MEU allows it to focus on its chief objective in crisis response, ready to answer disaster or humanitarian relief operations as the “first on the scene” force.
“It’s the first time that we’ve had since our change of command last summer to get together as a battalion and move to the field, operating in an expeditionary environment,” said Maj. Brad Van Slyke, operations officer, CLB-15, 1st MLG, of Madison, Wis. “We’ve come out here to establish command and control and to exercise general engineering, motor- transportation operations, medical services and general base camp services.”
The responsibilities of general engineering rested with the Marines in the battalion’s Engineering Detachment, charged with establishing a forward operating base in Sierra Training Area aboard the base.
“We had about a 20-Marine detachment sent up there, and they did the planning,” said Van Slyke. “Within that FOB, they built a berm around the perimeter of their camp, established guard towers and an entry control point.”
Traditionally, a FOB allows the main operating base to extend their services or to improve reaction times if needed while in country.
A large part in sustaining Marines in the field is providing them with water.
“We’ve got the Tactical Water Purification System, or TWPS. It’s one of our general engineering services that we have,” said Van Slyke. “We established a water point down at [the shore of] Red Beach, and we have a hand full of Marines down there who are purifying water straight from the ocean. That water is being used for hygiene purposes, for drinking purposes and for cooking. It’s essential for us to have potable water to run a base camp. That was a significant factor in this exercise.”
In addition to the convoys that carry supplies, such as water, to ground troops in need, the motor-transportation operations also consisted of conducting repairs to inoperative vehicles in an austere environment.
“We actually brought a vehicle with us that stopped working right before we came out here,” said Van Slyke. “We specifically did that, so the Marines could practice fixing a vehicle in a field environment, because they don’t necessarily have all the tools they would back in the rear.”
Marines and sailors with the battalion put their medical know-how to the test during a very realistic mass casualty event. This employed the use of role players from SpecPro Technical Services aboard base who used make up to present the service members with authentic-looking injuries.
“Our Health Services Detachment has done a great job of walking the battalion through the procedures for a mass casualty,” explained Van Slyke. “It added some very realistic training value to it.”
Marines and sailors who participated in the mass casualty even agreed that seeing that much blood, even though it was fake, opened their eyes to what a real emergency medical situation could look like.
“It was actually very realistic,” said Lance Cpl. Jeffery Glass, combat engineer, Engineer Detachment, CLB-15, 1st MLG and a Cleveland native. “These [‘wounds’] seemed more urgent because the [role players] actually looked like they were really injured. Every other mass casualty I’ve done is just guys acting like they have a gun-shot wound, but there’s nothing there.”
This was not the only event role players made seem genuine. Two role players approached the main operating base’s entry control point in a vehicle, acting as locals of the “foreign” land. These natives claimed they just wanted to spend a day at the beach; however, the situation grew tense when the Marines declined their request to enter the area.
“They said that it was their land and that they were a little upset that the Marines were on it,” said Lance Cpl. Dustin Nixon, tank mechanic, Maintenance Detachment, CLB-15, 1st MLG. “I was trying to let them know that we were here for their safety. I was trying to radio it up so that they could speak to someone higher. When it started taking a while, they started getting a little aggravated.”
Once the locals started displaying aggression toward the Marines, that’s when they were asked to step out of their vehicle.
“We searched the vehicle and found weapons in the back seat of the vehicle,” said Nixon, a 19-year-old of Currituck, N.C. “The driver had a pistol in his front belt loop, and we found IED-making material in the back car. From that point, we detained them and put them in a secure location and held them there.”
Overall, personnel within the battalion say this first training evolution of the year has been successful, and they hope to continue stream-lining procedures up until their deployment in which they will be providing support to approximately 2,000 Marines and sailors.
“Any time you pick up and move away from your home station is a good thing. You learn a lot of things about yourself and a lot of things about the Marines around you and the missions that you’re capable of doing,” said Van Slyke “Even coming out here we’ve learned a lot. With [combat operations] dialing down, the MEU is the next big event that we can capitalize on. The Marines are excited and motivated to get out there on ship to do something new.”
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