It’s true that every Marine is a rifleman, but this applies at only the most basic level. Very few Marines get the consistent training and practice of infantry skills a true grunt requires. The rest of us learn only the foundations. However, this is a worthy goal to strive toward, becoming the competent rifleman, and it is the reason Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., deployed for combat training.
More than 40 Marines from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron spent July 15 â€“ 20 at Camp Pendleton, Calif., learning and practicing skills used daily by Marines in Afghanistan. This Deployment For Training exercise aimed to create Marines who are more rounded and prepared for the challenges they may someday face.
â€œThe DFT gave Marines the opportunity to re-familiarize themselves with their combat skills,â€ said Cpl. Drew Moses, the H&HS ammunitions chief and a native of Litchfield Park, Ariz. â€œWe were able to learn some new stuff and to apply the old and new, hands-on. Marine Combat Training is a great foundation, but more than yearly rifle qualification is needed. This provided great reeducation on what we are supposed to be doing.â€
The DFT occurs twice every year for H&HS Marines, honing their combat skills through a variety of training events. This evolution included tactics, techniques and procedures for combating the threat of IEDs, patrolling, convoy operations, small unit leadership, force-on-force urban operations and squad and fire team operations.
â€œThis was a great opportunity for Marines to get away from their day-to-day lives and experience the essence of combat in a simulated environment,â€ said Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Montoya, the H&HS sgt. maj. and a native of San Miguel, N.M.
Combining all these areas of training was the Infantry Immersion course, which challenged Marines to respond to realistic scenarios enacted by role-players in an environment built to resemble Afghanistan.
â€œActually experiencing being shot at and shooting back, going through the stress of how hard it is to handle the situation first-hand, plus the lack of communication added a lot,â€ stated Moses.
â€œThe training was very well rounded, covering many areas important for Marines,â€ said Capt. Shaheed Shabazz, the H&HS pilot training officer and a native of Las Cruces, N.M. â€œSome of the largest benefits were the gains in camaraderie and leadership.â€
The DFT stresses leadership training, putting lance corporals and corporals in charge of fire teams and squads, teaching junior Marines how to lead and to be led properly.
â€œThe training was important, but not only for the specific lesson,â€ stated Shabazz. â€œThe leadership gains were tremendous. Sometimes that ability falls by the wayside, and training like this brings it back.â€
â€œI was able to expand my knowledge and better myself as a corporal,â€ confirmed Moses. â€œIâ€™ll be able to take this and pass it on to my junior Marines.â€
The most unexpected gains during the DFT came in the form of perspective. Everyone came out with a new look on life in the Corps.
â€œThis was a real eye-opener,â€ explained Pfc. Irving Sanchez, an H&HS airframes mechanic and a native of Chicago. â€œYou have to have a lot of respect for our guys in Afghanistan. I know we go day by day thinking the Marine Corps is just a job, but the guys overseas are risking their lives doing the stuff we did today. We were lucky we had plastic rounds flying at us. We put the gruntsâ€™ shoes on and realized we were unprepared.â€
â€œI havenâ€™t had these experiences until today; I finally got the taste of what Marines deal with in Afghanistan,â€ added Lance Cpl. Kennedy Atuatasi, an H&HS administration clerk and a native of American Samoa.
The Marines who attended the DFT learned a great deal of new information, but more importantly, they were reminded on what it means to be a Marine.
â€œEvery Marine is a rifleman, but we get away from that a lot,â€ stated Shabazz. â€œThings like this DFT remind us that these are things all of us are supposed to know how to do first and foremost and try to get us back to that.â€
â€œAfter Marine Combat Training, Marines, us in the wing especially, lose track of what we came here to do,â€ said Moses. â€œWe forget about the grunts doing all the tough work, and this reeducated us to our purpose.â€