Marines maintain combat skills in Iraq

29 Sep 2004 | Sgt. Enrique S. Diaz 1st Marine Logistics Group

The Marines of Combat Service Support Company 124 conducted live-fire, combat skills training for future convoy operations here, Sept. 27, 2004.

The Camp Pendleton-based unit recently arrived in Iraq and is responsible for convoying critical supplies to Marines throughout the Al Anbar province.

CSSC-124 is under the command of Combat Service Support Battalion 7, which is part of the 1st Force Service Support Group, the combat service support element responsible for providing supplies and services for I Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq.

Although Marines train for a variety of combat situations in boot camp and follow-on training, for many Marines of CSSC - 124, this was an opportunity to simulate specific situations they are likely to encounter on convoys during their seven-month deployment in Iraq.

Training scenarios allowed the Marines from various job specialties to test and apply their skills to fight against guerrilla-style tactics adopted by enemy forces in Iraq.  This particular training is vital to their survival and mission accomplishment. 

"There are a lot of things we can do to put the odds in our favor," said Capt. Dave I. Eickenhorst, the commanding officer for CSSC-124.

This type of training sharpens the Marines' skills, ultimately keeping them alive and able to do their job, said Eickenhorst, a Houston native.

Training started promptly as soon as the sun provided enough light to sight in their M-16A2 service rifle and lasted through the heat of the day.

After gear and weapon adjustments were made, the Marines walked about a mile to where they conducted drills that might save their lives if employed in actual combat.

During the training, Marines mounted and dismounted their high mobility multi-wheeled vehicles, or "humvees," and 7-ton transport trucks; shot their rifles from inside their vehicles; and practiced various tactics Marines would use if attacked on a re-supply mission.

The exercise simulated the immediate actions non-infantry Marines would employ in an attack along the hazardous roads of Iraq.

"We know we're mechanics and wrench turners, but bottom line, we're getting paid to put rounds down range if we have to," said Chief Warrant Officer Steve E. Baker, the engineer platoon commander.

"They (junior Marines) never know when they are going to get called outside the wire to do a vehicle recovery or maintenance contact on a generator, but you give them that confidence to shoot from the back of that HMMWV or 7-ton (truck) with this kind of training," said the 34-year-old Chula Vista, Calif., native.

The exercise was the first part of a planned cycle of training to make Marines more combat ready, regardless of the situation.

"Every Marine needs to know how to fire their weapon in relation to their surroundings," said 1st Sgt. John R. Smock, the company's first sergeant and 42-year-old Peoria, Ill., native.

It's important for Marines to continue training even while they are deployed, especially perishable skills such as basic marksmanship, Smock added.

If Marines don't constantly hone their marksmanship skills, they'll lose some of the skills, which distinguishes Marines as top-notch marksmen, said Smock.

Continuous training during their deployment will allow the Marines of CSSC-124 to remain prepared as they travel the uncertain paths their mission requires.
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