Camp Lejeune, N.C. --
In an austere combat environment such as the one Marines are facing in Afghanistan, bullets are not the only threat these warriors are trained to encounter.
Countless hours are spent educating Marines on Improvised Explosive Devices and mines as well.
Predominant throughout Helmand Province, these deadly obstacles are the main cause of troops killed in Afghanistan, which soared by 60 percent in 2010, according to the Joint IED Defeat Organization.
To maintain readiness as their deployment nears, Marines with the Personal Security Detail, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), participated in a mine IED sweeping awareness exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 3, 2011.
Marines with the PSD are in charge of the safety of the 2nd MLG’s commanding general, and are trained to react and control any situation that may jeopardize his safety.
“Basically, we teach the students how to positively identify IEDs and mines in Afghanistan,” said Sgt. Matthew E. O’Neil, an instructor at the Engineering Training Area Three, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. “We teach them how to use metal detectors and to effectively locate the devices.”
The exercise offers a variety of obstacles and manmade features, such as canals, bridges, rural roads and trash piles, which can challenge even the most experienced Marine and creates an environment that is as close to what they can expect to see without actually having arrived in theater.
“This exercise ofers a real-life simulation to help us prepare to identify IEDs,” said Sgt. Matthew J. Marra, a PSD member with 2nd MLG (FWD). “I would take the training I got from this exercise over any other training I’ve done on IEDs before.”
The exercise not only enhances the team’s cohesion and confidence for one another, but also improves their readiness and capability to identify and assess a situation in a combat environment.
“I truly believe the Marines in our team are much more confident [about] operating in a combat environment,” Marra said. “We are constantly going to be mobile as a ground unit, so the exercise is highly beneficial to our future mission accomplishment.”
At the end of each event, the team gathered with the instructors and discussed every scenario thoroughly to make sure each member understood what happened.
“This is what I’ve been talking about for all this time. Training to the last second,” said 1st Lt. Roy V. Fish, the aide-de-camp to the 2nd MLG commanding general, and PSD Commander.
Fish praised his team for maintaining their focus during the grueling training schedule they have engaged in over the past six months. The training helped to enhance the unit’s cohesion, although, they were selected from a cross-section of different military occupations.
The PSD will soon be operating in Afghanistan, however, he reminded them to maintain their focus until they complete their training package prior to the deployment.
“There is no reason to drop our packs right now, we need to be as prepared for this deployment as we can to successfully accomplish our mission in Afghanistan,” Fish concluded.