'Ode to Joy'

'Ode to Joy'

May 25, 2011

Photo of the Day

NEW YORK -- Sgt. Mohamed Mohamed, a New York native and personnel chief, 1st Marine Recruiting District, stands with the The National Museum of the Marine Corps Traveling Exhibit in Federal Hall. The exhibit contains a collection of paintings by Marines and is part of Fleet Week New York 2011. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m May 24 - 27, May 31 and June 1. More than 3,000 Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen will be in the area participating in community outreach events and equipment demonstrations. This is the 27th year New York has hosted the sea services for Fleet Week. For more information on Fleet Week New York 2011 visit www.fleetweeknewyork.com. (Official Marine Corps HDR image by Sgt. Jimmy Shea / RELEASED)

May 23, 2011

Marines dedicate Afghanistan compound to fallen lieutenant colonel

Marines bow their heads in prayer during a dedication ceremony at the Marine Air Control Group 28 compound at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, May 21. The ceremony was held in honor of Lt. Col. Benjamin Chili Palmer, the former commanding officer of 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, who was killed in action in Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 12. (Photo by Cpl. Rashaun X. James)
By Cpl. Rashaun X. James, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) 

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan  — Deployed Marines and sailors honored the life and service of former 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion commanding officer, Lt. Col. Benjamin J. Palmer, by dedicating to him the Marine Air Control Group 28 compound on Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, May 21.

“Marines, this is not a day of sadness,” said Lt. Col. Thomas P. Bajus serves as the MACG-28 detachment commander in Afghanistan. “We should remember Lt. Col. Palmer as a hero who gave his life for us.”

Palmer served with 2nd LAAD Bn., part of MACG-28, through December 2010, at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.

Bajus and Palmer served together with the group – Palmer as the commanding officer 2nd LAAD Bn., and Bajus as the commanding officer of Marine Tactical Air Control Squadron 28. 

“Today was not a memorial ceremony, but rather a dedication ceremony to remember a fallen hero,” said Bajus. “We have chosen to name our compound after Lt. Col. Palmer, one of our own.”

Palmer deployed to southwestern Afghanistan with II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) in April and was killed while working with a mentoring team that provides support to the Afghan National Civil Order Police in Helmand province, May 12.

“What he has left us all is the passion he had in being a Marine,” Bajus said.

 The control group’s compound will now be known as “Chili’s Corner,” in honor of Palmer’s call sign. A sign at the entrance to the compound also states that it is dedicated in the memory of the fallen Modesto, Calif., native.

“Marines like Lt. Col. Palmer are the reason why we will not be defeated here,” Bajus said. “We all look after our own, just like he did.”

 “You don’t realize how much someone means to you until they’re gone,” said 1st Lt.  Joel R. Searls, a close battle coordinator with MTACS-28.  “I worked for Lt. Col. Palmer at 2nd LAAD as a platoon commander, adjutant, safety officer and battery executive officer.  He was my battalion commanding officer and he was very down-to-earth. You could talk to him about any problem that you had.”

Palmer’s personal decorations included the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Republic of Korea Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with two gold stars and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star. Palmer is survived by his wife and four children.

Photo of the Day

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos gives his remarks during the Home of the Commandants ribbon cutting ceremony at Marine Barracks Washington May 20. Amos and his wife invited local neighbors to visit the inside of the renovated home. The consturction on the house has been ongoing since Amos's change of command ceremony in October 2010. (Photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

May 20, 2011

Marines hone marksmanship, tactics during Dynamic Assault

A Marine from Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Force Company, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force, fires at targets May 10 during the Dynamic Assault Course at Camp Hansen's Range 16. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Anthony Ward Jr) 
By Lance Cpl. Anthony Ward Jr., Marine Corps Bases Japan 

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan  — Reconnaissance Marines are conducting marksmanship training drills as part of the Dynamic Assault Course taught by the Special Operations Training Group on Camp Hansen’s Range 16 April 25 to May 27.

The Marines, with Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Force Company, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force, are participating in this training in preparation for an upcoming deployment.

The Dynamic Assault Course is a five-week course, with the first two weeks focusing on marksmanship, said Staff Sgt. Jason Adkins, the lead instructor for the course. The next three weeks focus on tactics, where the students learn insertion, breaching objectives with explosives, and the proper techniques used to secure an objective.

Dynamic Assault Course instructors are all reconnaissance Marines from SOTG, III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF.

This class is important as it pushes a force reconnaissance platoon’s skills to a high level and provides the Marines with the required certification to be part of a force reconnaissance platoon, Adkins said. With the training, the platoon can be employed by its commander to carry out direct-action missions, he added.

During the first week of training, Marines fired the M1911 .45 caliber pistol and M4A1 service rifle while training at ranges simulating different urban environments.

“(The training) is very important for the type of mission(s) we do,” said Staff Sgt. Lin Barrios, assistant platoon sergeant for the platoon.

As part of the MEU, the Marines need to know how to operate in different environments, said Barrios.

After familiarizing themselves with their weapons and zeroing in their aiming points, the Marines moved to live-fire shooting in a close-quarters situation.

“I like all the tactics,” said Cpl. Angel Robles, a reconnaissance Marine with the 31st MEU and a student in the course. “There’s all kinds of stuff going through your head. (When entering a room), you have to remember if you’re one man, two man or rear security.”

In close quarters situations, teams of four to six Marines enter a room using proper room-clearing techniques, identify the threats and use the proper method to take them down.

You have to have a certain mindset for it, said Barrios.

“(There’s) a thousand ways you can take over a house, and there’s a thousand ways to mess it up. At this level, you have to be in the correct mindset to do the job.

“Most of the Marines are responding very well to (the training),” added Barrios. “It’s very important to throw them in this kind of environment early.”

Photo of the Day

A Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 CH-53E Super Stallion transports a Canadian Forces CH-47 Chinook during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel mission in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, May 17. Utilizing a trio CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461, with assistance from 2nd Marine Logistics Group's helicopter support team, the Canadian and American team was able to transport the injured aircraft back to its home at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Thomas W. Dowd)

May 19, 2011

Photo of the Day

Lance Cpl. Marcus Terry fires the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon through a mock window on an unknown distance course at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., May 18. Terry is an infantryman assigned to the Ground Comabt Element, Marine Barracks Washington. (Photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

Marines shut down Army in sitting volleyball

The Marines took down the All-Air Force sitting volleyball team in a victories best-of-three series during the Warrior Games May 18, 2011, at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent surprised the Marines when they arrived to cheer on the team.
By Sgt. Michael S. Cifuentes, Headquarters Marine Corps 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.  — The All-Marine sitting volleyball team squashed the hype from the Army during their first matchup May 17 during the 2011 Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Marines won in a best-of-three game series that marked the first faceoff of the sitting volleyball round robin event.

The hype and rivalry began at the Inaugural Warrior Games in May 2010 when the Marines beat the Army in the final sitting volleyball game, culminating last year’s Warrior Games.

This year, the rivalry continued with some friendly exchanges of smack-talk between Marines and Soldiers during the game – some talk coming from the day of the Warrior Games’ opening ceremony.

The All-Army team took the lead in the best-of-three set when they beat the Marines 27-25 in the first game.

As the Army celebrated their sting ecstatically, the Marines regrouped with some helping words from head coach Brent Peterson.

“You talk about teamwork, you talk about camaraderie, you talk about the will – it’s all right here in this game,” Peterson said. “We’ve trained for this since February. Whoever wants the win will take it.”

The Marines retorted to the Army’s first win with a solid 25-16 victory in the second game, and a 15-10 victory for the tie-breaker and overall game win.

Lance Cpl. Joshua Wege was a proud volleyball victor. He said the game was a makeup for the loss he and the All-Marine wheelchair basketball team took just earlier in the evening. Wege and several Marines served as vital players in both games.

“It feels great to throw one back at [the Army],” said Lance Cpl. Jese Schag, an animated force in sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. “They were a solid team. The win feels great and I’m pumped to keep going.”

Just like the wheelchair basketball event, teams play four matches operating in a round-robin format. Teams will then be seeded to play for bronze and gold medals.

The Marines took on the Special Operations Command team right after defeating the Army, and won in stride in just two matches. The Marines are scheduled to take on the Air Force team May 18 and the Navy/Coast Guard team May 19 in sitting volleyball.

Marine veteran Cpl. Savage Margaf of the sitting volleyball team said there’s a lot of excitement in this event, and they’re going to continue playing their game for the remainder of the Warrior Games.

“There’s no holding back – no mercy,” she said.

May 18, 2011

Photo of the Day

1st Lt. Christopher Campagna, commanding officer of 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion attachment, Landing Force CARAT, signals other Amphibious Assault Vehicles May 17 during a dry run of the final training exercise (FTX) in Thailand during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2011. CARAT is an annual bilateral exercise held between the U.S. and Southeast Asia nations with the goals of enhancing regional cooperation, promoting mutual trust and understanding, and increasing operational readiness. U.S. and Thai militaries are using AAVs, Marines and Sailors for the beach assault on May 18. The majority of the U.S. Marines participating in CARAT are reserve Marines who volunteered for the training. The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve is an integral element of the Marine Corps Operating Forces and shares the expeditionary mindset that encompasses the Marines’ culture. (Official Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Aaron Hostutler)

Marines ready to defend sitting volleyball title at Warrior Games

The All-Marine sitting volleyball team are ready to defend their title in their first game against the All-Army team at the 2011 Warrior Games May 17, 2011. Last year, the Marines said they devastated the All-Army team beating them twice in series of three games. The Warrior Games is an annual Paralympics sporting event for wounded, ill and injured service members. Last year, the Marines took the Chairman's Cup and are ready to defend their title. (Photo by Sgt. Michael Cifuentes)

Story by Sgt. Michael Cifuentes

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.  — At the 2010 Inaugural Warrior Games, the All-Marine team took home the Chairman’s Cup, including 19 gold medals, 24 silver and 16 bronze.

This year, it has already been known – all other services are looking to snatch the championship right back from the Marines.

Friendly, inter-service rivalry talk has been established leading up to the opening ceremony. Some athletes remember the stiff competition last year, and one event stands out: sitting volleyball.

The Marines said they “devastated” the All-Army team at the 2010 Warrior Games.

“We brought it last year, and there was a lot of smack-talking,” said veteran Marine Richard Bacchus of the sitting volleyball team, remembering the intense final game against the Army. “It was crazy.”

At the 2010 Warrior Games, the Marines beat the Army twice in a best of three series. Bacchus said Army seemed sure of a victory when they voiced their confidence.

“They were yapping how about how they were going to take us,” Bacchus said. “All we could do was look and smile when we were making plays. A lot of services are gunning for us, but I’d say the Army’s our main rivals in [sitting] volleyball.”

Last year, the Marines manned their sitting volleyball team by quick fills – anyone who was interested in competing in the sitting volleyball event was on the team. This year, through the success of recruiting wounded warriors and competition at the Marine Corps Trials, the Marines were able to select the best participants in the sport.

“Our team has grown to be more athletic and just better all around this year,” said veteran Marine Cpl. Travis Greene of the sitting volleyball team. “Our practices have been more intense, efficient and harder. We’re ready to go out there and show everyone what we got.”

Greene continued to say the rivalry with the Army has been around for centuries “outdating the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry.” But there’s no hatred between the services – just competition, and that’s all free game, he added.

The All-Marine sitting volleyball team is slated to take on the All-Army team May 17.

“It’s going to be a great game to watch,” said Lance Cpl. Jese Schag of the sitting volleyball team. “There’s going to be some serious competition. But we’re going out there to have fun.”

May 17, 2011

Photo of the Day

Cpl. Oscar Franquez, rifle inspector with the United States Marine Silent Drill Platoon, looks over his Marines during the Friday Evening Parade at Marine Barracks Washington May 13. (Photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

Marines, civilians train for upcoming fire season

A CH-53E Super Stallion drops water from a nearby lake onto a simulated fire, May 11. Personnel came from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the San Diego Sherriff's Department, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps to prepare for California's upcoming fire season as a team. (Photo by Cpl. Jen Calaway)

By Cpl. Jenn Calaway, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton 
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.  — While the Department of Defense’s primary mission is to fight and win the nation’s wars, it is often called upon to assist civil authorities in the event of a fire or natural disaster.
Helicopter pilots, air crews and personnel from three Camp Pendleton units and three local law enforcement entities came together, May 11, and used base assets to fight a simulated fire in preparation for the summer’s heat and the dangers that come with it.

“Essentially it’s a training exercise in anticipation of the upcoming fire season,” said Col. James Griffin, Deputy Current Operations Officer, I Marine Expeditionary Force. “Today, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, San Diego Sherriff’s Department, the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps are all participating so we can come together as a team and fight fires.”

Months of planning goes into the small details required to pool different resources. Exercises of this caliber are necessary to prepare for California’s notorious fire season.

“This training is for when the state and local authorities get overwhelmed,” said Capt. Bing Stickney, Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer, San Diego Sherriff’s Department. “At that point we are there to come and assist them when it’s called upon to mitigate loss and property damage.”

To keep the process running smooth, when there is a real-life crisis, every detail, such as radio frequency compatibility, can make all the difference. An exercise like this can keep military and civilian emergency efforts on the same page, saving time when lives and property are at stake.

“In all aspects of emergency preparedness from earthquakes to wildfires, we can be called on to protect the public so that’s why exercises like this are so important,” Stickney said.

At one point during the exercise, two Marine CH-53E Super Stallions, one CH-46E Sea Knight and one CAL FIRE Huey helicopter, which served as director of traffic in the skies, shared the same airspace.

 “We get into pretty complex air operations when we’re working major incidents,” said John Winder, Tactical Air Operations, CAL FIRE. “We have our own [helicopters] flying around and other agencies as well, so it’s critical that everyone understands what airspace management is all about and how we set it up.”

Every year, thousands of acres are burned due to uncontrolled wildfires, eliminating a substantial portion of California wildlife and natural resources. By coming together to combat this serious threat, military and civilian agencies alike are taking a proactive approach to firefighting.

“Back in 2007, there were some massive fires that destroyed hundreds of homes and ruined many lives here in San Diego,” Griffin said. “With all of our assets available to us in the Marine Corps, helping the local authorities during emergency situations is part of our responsibilities as leaders and good citizens.”

The exercise was a complete success, with all communications and operations running at a steady, smooth pace, paving the way for disaster preparedness in the future.

“It’s been amazing to see the progress that’s been made over the years because of exercises like this,” Griffin said. “There was a day where the military and civil authorities did not communicate very well – certainly not as well as they do today. Now, to see how everything works together is just a breath of fresh air.”

May 16, 2011

Photo of the Day

Cpl. Eamon Turnbull shakes hands with Lance Cpl. Andrew Kind after the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performed for wounded warriors at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., May 12. Turnbull, a member of the Wounded Warrior Regiment, was injured after stepping on an improvised explosive device while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Marjah, Afghanistan in Oct. 2010. (Photo by Cpl. Jeremy Ware)

Recon Marine awarded Navy Cross for thriving in heavy combat

By Sgt. Michael S. Cifuentes, Headquarters Marine Corps 

ARLINGTON, Va.  — Gunnery Sgt. Brian M. Blonder shot and killed an insurgent who was aiming a rocket-propelled grenade at his Marines. After that, Blonder and his Marines averaged killing one insurgent about every 10 minutes.

At the end of an all-day fight, more than 50 Taliban were dead, scores were retreating, and the Marines took control of a key supply route through the village of Shewan, Afghanistan.

Blonder said it was what he came to do, and it’s what Marines do best – kill the enemy. And his unit did that exceptionally well that even though the Taliban outnumbered the Marines roughly eight to one.

For thriving in the face of danger, Blonder, a native of Deer Beach, Fla., was awarded the Navy Cross during a ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., May 10. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presented the award and said Blonder is “one of the most selfless and disciplined Marines” he’s ever met.

“He’ll be remembered for this for generations,” Mabus said. “His attack was relentless. The insurgents grew afraid.”

Blonder deployed to Afghanistan in the summer of 2008 with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. As a reconnaissance Marine by trade, he was serving as platoon sergeant for Force Reconnaissance Platoon, a group of 30 Marines, who were attached to the battalion’s Company G.

The firefight began when Marines and Afghan National Police were patrolling in Shewan, Afghanistan, a desert village in southern Afghanistan closer to the Iranian border, late morning Aug. 8, 2008. Blonder and Force Recon Platoon, along with an equal-sized element from Company G, were patrolling the village streets, anticipating enemy activity. Blonder and his Marines entered the village from its eastern border, while the Company G Marines entered from the North.

Taliban insurgents had control of the village and were known to man fighting positions along Route 517, a major roadway in southern Afghanistan.

Blonder said Afghan National Police had previously reported heavy resistance from insurgents in the village, to include many roadside bombs on Route 517. The Marines’ mission was to gain control of the roadway, rid the village of Taliban, and help the Afghan police establish a presence in the village.

The Marines planned weeks in advance for a sure fight when they stepped foot into Shewan. Blonder wasn’t surprised when he saw the inhabitants had either left or stayed inside their homes.

“It’s standard when Marines or coalition forces enter towns with insurgents that the local populace don’t come out,” Blonder said.

Force Recon Platoon patrolled for three hours before the first shot was fired. Taliban fighters, who were hidden in a drainage trench, fired an RPG at Blonder and his crew. Chief Petty Officer Joe Martin, the platoon’s Navy corpsman, spotted the enemy through the smoke trail of the RPG.

Blonder and Martin dropped into the trench, which the three-man enemy RPG team used as a getaway path, and pursued the attackers.

“At one point, one of them kind of popped up and silhouetted himself. So, I shot that guy and killed him. The other two continued on down the trench line,” Blonder said.

A four-man team of Marines, lead by Gunnery Sgt. Garrett Dean, supported the pursuit by flanking the enemy’s escape.

The pursuit ended in minutes when the two insurgents where killed by Dean’s team.

When intense small arms fire and explosions erupted nearby, Blonder and his men moved to the sound of the fight. Taliban had ambushed the Company G Marines and were in multiple fortified fighting positions firing a barrage of RPGs. Blonder’s team rescued a destroyed humvee’s occupants and withdrew to a safe area away from Taliban gunfire.

Blonder repositioned his outnumbered Marines, and in direct, close combat, maneuvered against the enemy.
Through Blonder’s order, the aggressiveness of the Marines, and their leaders’ selfless actions and initiative, a unit of approximately 30 Marines ousted a force of an estimated 250 Taliban combatants – some intelligence reports claimed there were as many as 500 insurgents. Blonder’s planned flanking attacks slowly but surely gained more and more territory that was once occupied by Taliban insurgents earlier in the day.

The Marines’ assault was also bolstered by mortar and air support. Several 500 to 1,000-pound bombs were dropped on enemy positions.

“Our goal was to push the enemy out of their trenches,” said Blonder. “We kept pressing the attack until we did just that.”

More than 50 insurgents were confirmed dead and numerous more were wounded, while the Marines suffered no losses. Blonder was personally responsible for killing at least three that day.

Fighting ceased by sunset when the enemy had either fled or were killed.

Blonder said he was happy to be victorious.

“When it was all over with, and I was standing on the battlefield and the enemy was gone, I had a great sense of pride and accomplishment,” Blonder said. “When you’re not standing on the ground of the enemy at the end of the day, the enemy won. Instead, we took the stand, we drove the enemy out of their homes, and then we left on our own terms when we were ready to.”

Many Marines who participated in the battle were awarded with medals for valor.

“When you inflict that number of casualties on the enemy and none of us were killed, that’s a pretty successful fight,” said Martin. “The more chaotic things got, the more calm and on point [Blonder] was. I don’t think I’ll ever have another platoon sergeant like Gunny Blonder.”

Their mission of seizing control of Shewan’s portion of Route 517 and ridding insurgents from the village was accomplished. In fact, Blonder said he hadn’t heard of Marines or coalition forces receiving any more casualties in that area from insurgents during the rest of the deployment. The victory disrupted several Taliban unit networks, which Blonder said crippled Taliban spirits in southern Afghanistan.

“Our number one job is to locate, close with and kill the enemy,” said Dean. “What we did that day is what we trained for, and that’s what we’ll always do.”

Blonder remembers the triumphant and tiring day vividly. From the rifle fire Sgt. Frank Simmons bestowed upon the enemy, killing “countless” insurgents with single shots to the head or chest, to the accurate sniper fire of Staff Sgt. Richard Powell, Blonder said he’ll wear the Navy Cross as a representation of the Marines he fought alongside that day.

“It was a busy day,” Blonder said. “Every Marine out there was a huge part of that fight. From the NCO (noncommissioned officer) leadership all the way up to the officer leadership – everyone contributed all they had to that fight.”

May 13, 2011

Marine’s legacy becomes life lesson for all

Photo courtesy of the Ian Tillman Foundation
By Lance Cpl. Tyler C. Vernaza, Marine Corps Bases Japan 
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan  — On the night of May 26, 2005, Ian Lee Tillman and a few of his friends took their long boards out for a ride in Ian’s hometown in Clearwater, Fla. Tillman, being a former Marine, loved the fast life. He was fearless. As they rode down Hercules Avenue, just as they had done countless times before, Ian fell. Ian was not wearing his helmet. As a result, he sustained traumatic brain injuries and died 10 days later at 28 years old.
Seven months after Ian’s death his parents started the Ian Tillman Foundation, a non-profit organization, whose mission is traumatic brain injury prevention with a focus on skateboarding. The Tillman’s preserve Ian’s legacy through their “Helmet for a Promise” program.

“Ian had a passion for humanity and helping others, and I knew I had to help,” said Marcy Tillman, Ian’s mother and founder of the Ian Tillman Foundation.

Ian’s parents took to the streets, visiting various skate parks, community centers and, from May 9-16, Barry Tillman, Ian’s father and vice president of the foundation, is visiting Marine Corps installations on Okinawa. The Installation Safety Office, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, is hosting the Critical Days of Summer presentation on several Marine Corps camps. Barry is the keynote speaker, highlighting the importance of wearing proper protective equipment during high-risk adventure activities.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2,300 skaters were admitted to hospitals with traumatic brain injuries,” said Barry at a CDS presentation at Camp Foster. “So, if you promise to wear a helmet we will give you one, custom fitted to your head.”

“Helmet for a Promise” works, he said. Each skater signs a contract promising to wear their helmet.
“We are not only helping save lives, but changing the attitudes skaters have towards helmets,” he added.

Since its creation, “Helmet for a Promise” has equipped athletes with more than 3,000 helmets. Testimony and helmet replacements confirm that more than three lives have been saved, more than 30 hospitalizations have been avoided and countless minor concussions have been prevented, according to their website.

Ian’s accident could happen to anyone. Marines, who are often risk takers, are exposed to similar dangers regularly.

Safety is every service member’s responsibility on and off duty, said Aaron Davis, lead safety and occupational health specialist with Installation Safety.

Photo of the Day

Gunnery Sgt. Victor Lopez, Scout Sniper Chief Instructor, Weapons Platoon, Landing Force Company, comprised of elements from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines, draws crosshairs on a board while Royal Thai Marine Petty Officers 1st Class Ekapot Sengsie (left) and Nantawit Chunjan (right) get practice time as a sniper team May 12 at Sattahip Naval Base, Thailand. The Marines are participating in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2011. CARAT 2011 is a series of bilateral exercises held annually throughout Southeast Asia to strengthen relationships and enhance force readiness. (Photo by Cpl. Aaron Hostutler)

May 12, 2011

Photo of the Day

A Marine with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, gazes across the farmlands during a recent foot patrol. The hot and humid weather didn't stop the Marines from patrolling through miles of farmlands. Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sundell of Salem, Ore., said their hard work has helped bring a safer atmosphere to the area. (Photo by Cpl. Marco Mancha)

New MARADMIN updating reenlistment standards brings big changes

 By Lance Cpl. Christofer P. Baines, Headquarters Marine Corps 
ARLINGTON, Va.  — Recent changes in reenlistment procedures will help the Marine Corps identify and retain only the most qualified Marines by approving them through selection boards.
Marine Corps Administrative Message 273/11, guidance to all Marines implemented May 5, outlines the new competitive reenlistment procedures, which can affect Marines in both First and Subsequent Term Alignment Plan’s, though first term Marines will feel the biggest impact. First term Marines are those serving in their first enlistment, whereas subsequent term Marines those who have already reenlisted.

For fiscal year 2012, beginning Oct. 1, the system will change from the standard commander’s recommendation to a career planner’s tool with four ratings, which will allow commanders to evaluate the Marines based on their performance and eligibility to take on a boatspace, or designated slot, for fast filling military occupational specialties.

“A fast filling MOS is when there are more reenlistment submissions than available FTAP boatspaces,” said Lt. Col. Michael Landree, head of Enlisted Retention and Career Counseling Section, Manpower Management, Enlisted Assignments, Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “In order to determine which Marines receive these boatspaces, we conduct a board to reenlist the most qualified Marines.”

The highest rating, Tier 1, is for Marines with outstanding performance records, whereas Tier 4 is for Marines closer to the minimum standards for reenlistment. Marines will be evaluated against others in the same military occupational specialty and year group, or the shared year those Marines entered the Corps.

Some Marines will also have the option to perform a lateral move into a highly technical, high demand, low density MOS, such as counterintelligence or explosive ordnance disposal.

“Headquarters Marine Corps will evaluate Marines based upon their education and training scores, and match them with highly technical MOSs that they qualify for,” said Landree. “This gives Marines greater options when reenlisting rather than just their primary MOS.”

In addition, the reenlistment window has been expanded to 90 days. It now begins July 1 and ends Sept. 30.
For more information, Marines should contact their unit’s career planner.

May 11, 2011

Photo of the Day

GySgt. Brian Blonder was awarded the Navy Cross by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus during a ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., May 10, 2011. Blonder was awarded for his actions during an all-day firefight against Taliban insurgents Aug. 8, 2008, during the battle of Shewan, Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

Who Makes The Rules? East Coast Corps gather to discuss Policy

Senior enlisted Marines and sailors throughout Marine Corps Forces Command, pose for a photo during annual Sergeant Major, Master Gunnery Sergeant and Master Chief Symposium at the Marston Pavilion aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 3, 2011. The seasoned vets covered a multitude of topics that military personnel and their families deal with on a daily basis. (Photo by Cpl. Matthew P. Troyer.)
By Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Johnston, 2nd Marine Division 
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.   — Are the five-fingered “Avatar” running shoes authorized to wear during physical training? Should Marines with children be allowed to pick them up from daycare or school facilities out in town without having to change into civilian attire?
Senior enlisted Marines and sailors throughout Marine Corps Forces Command, attended the annual Sergeant Major, Master Gunnery Sergeant and Master Chief Symposium at the Marston Pavilion aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 3, 2011. Issues like the above were put in the hot seat and hashed out for a week.

With more than 165 leaders in attendance, Gunnery Sgt. Jerry Pennington, administration chief for II Marine Expeditionary Force staff secretary, said the group left no stone unturned. They covered a vast multitude of topics that military personnel and their families deal with on a daily basis, he said.

“They’re broken into groups and each group has a certain number of agenda items that they research and discuss options,” said Pennington. “They try to figure out whether or not it should go up to the Headquarters of the Marine Corps or the commandant to fix the issue and if not; why not?”

From as far north as the tip of Maine all the way down to southern Florida, the massive group of seasoned vets professionally gave their expertise on each subject.

Sgt. Maj. Matthew V. Wilhelm, sergeant major for Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, said the event was one of the year’s tipping points that ultimately unified all senior enlisted members from the East Coast on matters frequently being questioned in the Corps.

“We got together and made an impact on the Marine Corps,” explained Wilhelm. “The future of the Marine Corps is based off our decisions as leaders to shape policy that makes sense for Marines and their families. We’re here to implement a better Corps for the up and coming Marines and sailors.”

Wilhelm said his true belief was that junior Marines were the ones who actually made the most impact on procedures and regulations. Although most Marines and sailors thought their voices where unheard, he and other leaders wanted people to know even the smallest concerns were being addressed. To him the event was a key factor in giving families the resources and tools for keeping their warriors combat ready.

“The operation tempo of the Marine corps over the past 10 years has been very fast,” said Wilhelm. “Every junior Marine needs to understand that in order for us to function at 100 percent as a Corps, we need to know what you and your families think. Fortunately for us, we have had tremendous amounts of feedback from Marines and families, which allows us to take on all of these issues.”

Wilhelm talked about how the gathering had a positive outcome. With the amount of solutions that came from the event, he said the symposium should run more than once a year.

“This has been very, very beneficial and it should probably be done more often,” said Wilhelm. “Future sergeant majors and master gunnery sergeants need to know and understand about this process. Lance corporals and private first classes need to understand the impact they have and where the rules come from. If we don’t hear about it, we can’t discuss it. We are here to make sure the Marine Corps and our families are moving forward in a positive direction.”

May 10, 2011

Marines help Romanians refine jump skills during Black Sea Rotational Force

After a safety brief from Romanian jumpmasters, Romanian paratroopers training with Black Sea Rotational Force 11 make preparations to board a KC-130 Hercules, with flight support by BSRF-11's Air Combat Element. U.S. Marine and Romanian jumpmasters conducted combat jump operations at Camp Turzii recently, about 260 miles north of Mihail Kogalniceanu, to share experience and give Romanian troops the opportunity to jump from a KC-130. (Photo by Cpl Tatum Vayavananda)
By Cpl. Tatum Vayavananda, Black Sea Rotational Force 

CAMPIA TURZII, Romania  — Romanian special operations paratroopers, with the help of U.S. Marine jumpmasters, conduct parachute operations from a KC-130 Hercules into the open fields of Camp Turzii as part of a combined forces parachute combat jump operation for Black Sea Rotational Force 11.

The Romanian paratroopers conducted training operations with two types of military jumps: low-level, static-line combat jumps and High-Altitude, Low-Opening (HALO) military free-fall, said Gunnery Sgt. Nathan Z. Smith, jumpmaster, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion. While not in an instructor role, U.S. jumpmasters were observing the Romanian procedures and practices to ensure the jump operations were conducted safely.

“The Romanians are very capable, competent and confident in what they do,” said Smith. The techniques, tactics and procedures and guidelines they follow are pretty similar to U.S. paratroop doctrine, he added.

“It is important for us to come to know the U.S. standard procedure,” said Romanian Col. Adrian Ciolponea, the commander for the Romanian Special Operations Regiment. Learning U.S. procedures can assists more interoperability in difference scenarios, he added.

“Their operating procedures seem to be in line with ours and it helps with the language barrier because there can be less explaining of things since they are right on track,” said Gunnery Sgt. Darren D. Wainer, jumpmaster of BSRF-11.

At an altitude of 3,500 feet, once the hatch is open,the U.S. jumpmaster does a safety check to confirm that everything is safe for jumps, said Wainer. Afterwards, the Romanian jumpmaster mirrors the check and confirms that everything is “good-to-go.”

“Observing their actions in the aircraft makes sure everything is safe throughout,” said Wainer.

“The airborne aspect is important because you never know when you’ll need it and it’s better to have it ready than not have one,” said Ciolponea. There is a lot of training to maintain the skill set, specific risks involved and it’s not something you can build quickly without constantly training, he added.

“This is not an opportunity you get to have every day,” said Smith. Although the U.S. performs combined forces jump operations with other countries as well, “it’s nice to work with a force that’s so professional and so proficient,” he said.

“The Romanians are great. Their equipment is on par with ours, and they do an awesome job,” said Smith. The jump operations for BSRF-11 will hopefully set the tempo and expansion for next year’s rotation, he added.

“I think it’s good anytime we get to do any cross-training with NATO partners” said Wainer.

“It’s a great opportunity to get to work with them professionally and get to know them personally,” he said, “I think it’s a great group and it’s going to be a good deployment every time we get to work with them.”

We will always welcome U.S. to help us anytime, said Ciolponea.

“You can always be assured that you have a partner over here that is willing to work with you and be deployed with you to any area,” said Ciolponea. Despite the different cultural aspects, we realize that we can become friends and we have similar occupations and personalities, he added.
While flying at an 10,000 feet, two Romanian paratroopers fling themselves off a KC-130 Hercules and into the open air toward the patched landscape below while conducting a High-Altitude, Low-Opening (HALO) combat jump as part of parachute operations with Black Sea Rotational Force 11. U.S. Marine and Romanian jumpmasters conducted combat jump operations at Camp Turzii recently, about 260 miles north of Mihail Kogalniceanu, to share experience and give Romanian troops the opportunity to jump from a KC-130.

Photo of the Day

A Marine assigned to Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment (2/3), Regimental Combat Team-1 patrols through the area south of Patrol Base (PB) Jaker, Afghanistan. Marines assigned to Golf Company, 2/3 operating out of PB Jaker conduct security patrols as part of Operation Horizon. (Photo by Cpl. Orlando Perez)

May 8, 2011

United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps Poster

Friday Evening Parade May 7, 2011

On Friday evenings during the summer, Marine Barracks Washington host Friday Evening Parades for military leaders and government officials as well as foreign dignitaries. On May 7, the barracks hosted the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Conway and Sen. Carl Levin, the esteemed Senator from Michigan. I have attached several of my photos from the evening parade. Enjoy!!!

May 6, 2011

Staff Sgt. Michael Saldana, 1st Battalion's drill master, corrects a recruit during a senior drill instructor inspection. Saldana was nominated as 1st Battalion's Drill Instructor of the Year for the entire Marine Corps and was awarded by the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Museum Historical Society April 26.

Through the Ranks: Private First Class

GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - Pfc. Clark Kirkley, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., diligently scans his surroundings while standing post here, April 29. Kirkley, a member of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment’s Guard Force Platoon, stands post and goes on patrols regularly as part of the guard force’s security responsibilities of the area. This is Kirkley’s first deployment. The battalion supports Regimental Combat Team 1, the Marine ground combat element in Southern Helmand province. The mission of the RCT is to partner with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations to secure the Afghan people, defeat insurgent forces, and enable Afghanistan to assume security responsibilities in the region. Ultimately, the partnered forces promote the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance. (Photo by Cpl. Colby Brown)
Story by Cpl. Colby Brown

GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — Quiet, muffled conversation leaks from a guard tower, but only one Marine can be seen inside. His mouth moves in sync with both sides of the discussion. He has stood in almost the same place for an hour, but his eyes have been on the move, intensely scanning. He shifts his weight to a different leg, bringing the conversation to a resolution, and pinches smokeless tobacco into his bottom lip. He’s been standing post for two hours. Pfc. Clark Kirkley has four more before he gets to “hit the rack.”

“Your feet start hurting, and you just want to sit down, but you can’t sit down,” said Kirkley, a sentry with Guard Force Platoon. “It’s just really uncomfortable. But it’s important because you’re keeping the security of the base.”

The blue-eyed, Knoxville, Tenn., native isn’t insane for talking to himself; it’s a common way Marines pass time on post. And for Kirkley, standing post will be one of his main duties for the next seven months.

“Staying vigilant on post can be hard,” Kirkley said. “I just try to keep myself occupied. Sometimes I’ll talk to myself or just put a dip in. That usually helps.”

He didn’t expect to deploy a short six months after graduating from Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, N.C. Kirkley didn’t know what to think. Scared and nervous are two words he used to describe how he felt, but there isn’t a Marine Corps order on the proper emotions when deploying.

Being the only private first class in the Guard Force Platoon with Hotel Company, Kirkley is at the bottom of the totem pole. His main concern rests on what order the next highest-ranked Marine gives him. Every Marine lives somewhere within the rank hierarchy, but Kirkley, who is at the beginning of his career, hangs on the bottom rungs. He is well-accustomed to following orders.

As Kirkley put it, in a slight southern drawl, “Following orders isn’t a question it’s my job. I concentrate on just doing what I’m told, getting it done quickly and learning more about my job. I guess I’m here as a working body, but every one has their purpose and each person is important.”

Kirkley joined the Guard Force after arriving in Afghanistan in mid-April, having originally belonged to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment Communications.

Although Kirkley’s Marine Corps experience has had many unexpected turns, that’s part of life for a private first class. Kirkley’s job is to selflessly fill the needs of the Corps.

On an average day, he wakes up between 4 to 6 a.m. He has an hour to eat, shave, shower and prepare his gear before standing post. After being relieved of his post, he has the afternoon to himself, which is usually comprised of a nap and food. After dinner, he has another post duty, after which he sleeps. Kirkley wakes a few hours later to start the process over again.

“It makes me realize how precious things like sleep can be when I’m back home,” Kirkley said. “But I have a big role as part of the Guard Force. I have a lot of responsibility. The rest of the Marines are relying on me to make sure nothing bad happens.”

Along with standing post, Kirkley is obliged to answer to his squad leader throughout each day, handling any miscellaneous tasks that come up.

“The first thing that comes to mind is just to get whatever they need me to do done as quickly as possible,” Kirkley said.

For Kirkley, post and answering to his squad leader are a just couple parts of his deployment. Finding time to e-mail or call home is the other part. Checking in on his fiancé and family is very important to him, especially since this is his first deployment.

“Wanting to get back home keeps me getting up every morning,” Kirkley said. “It keeps getting closer and closer, even though it’s still more than half a year away, but I constantly think about home, my family and fiancé.”

Kirkley’s plans to marry his fiancé, have kids and start college after the deployment. He decided to join the Marine Corps after two stagnant years following his graduation from high school. He still hasn’t decided whether to stay in the Corps or get out.

Right now, Kirkley says he’s just proud to hold the title of Marine.

Editor's Note: ‘Through the Ranks,’ is a recurring commentary about a day in the life of a deployed Marine from 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. Each commentary will highlight an individual’s personal experience through the perspective of his rank.

May 3, 2011

Marine engineers expand outpost for Georgian Army

Cpl. Ryan Henderson, a squad leader with 1st Platoon, Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 8, II Marine Logistrics Group (Forward) builds a tent deck at Combat Outpost Shukvani in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 26. The 36 Marines and one sailor with 1st Plt. expanded COP Shukvani for the 33rd Georgian Battalion, finishing the mission April 30. (Photo by Cpl. Katherine Keleher)
By Cpl. Katherine Keleher, II MEF (FWD) 
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan  — Working under the sun’s ruthless heat, 36 Marines and one sailor with 1st Platoon, Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 8, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) worked to expand Combat Outpost Shukvani, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 18-30.

COP Shukvani was originally built to house a company of Georgian soldiers. First Plt.’s mission was to expand the location so it can support a Georgian Army battalion.

“It was built for a company-size element to push patrols and other companies out of,” said 2nd Lt. David Grant, the 1st Plt. commander. “Our mission is to improve the COP and expand it for the 33rd Georgians.”

During the expansion, the engineers built Hesco barriers, a detention facility, entry control points and elevated fighting positions. They also put Concertina wire around the perimeter, among other tasks.

Working just east of Sangin, on a plateau overlooking the city, the desert terrain proved difficult to work in.

Grant, a native of Philadelphia, explained that the platoon’s heavy equipment vehicles had a hard time operating in the extreme heat and sand for such a lengthy period of time.

“It’s a very hard terrain to operate in for us, engineering wise. But we’re keeping on schedule, pushing long hours,” Grant added. “[The Marines] are extremely motivated and high spirited, so we’re tackling it the way we should be tackling it.”

Despite issues with the heavy equipment vehicles, the one hospitalman, eight heavy equipment operators, six motor transportation drivers and mechanics, and 27 combat engineers, finished building the camp in time for the 33rd Georgian Battalion to do their change over with the 32nd Georgian Battalion, April 30.

With the motto “Jack of all trades, master of none,” the difficult terrain proved tedious, but not a show stopper for the engineers.

Combat engineers specialize in anything and everything from building bridges to demolition, explained Sgt. Kenneth Meade, the 1st Plt. guide. “You name it, we do it.”

The troops arrived in Afghanistan in January, and began their deployment doing route clearance missions. A few months later, they began building Forward Operating Base Degori, Patrol Base Signs and COP Ertoba for coalition forces. COP Shukvani was their fourth building mission, as well as their largest.

After a week of building and another project completed, 1st Plt. convoyed out of COP Shukvani toward their next mission with the feeling a success.
Cpl. Jeff Stebell, an assistant squad leader with 1st Platoon, Engineer Company, Combat Logistrics Battalion 8, II Marine Logistrics Group (Forward), moves a piece of plywood while building tent decks at Combat Outpost Shukvani in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 26. The 36 Marines and one sailor with 1st Plt. expanded the size of COP Shukvani for the 33rd Georgian Battalion. (Photo by Cpl. Katherine Keleher)

Photo of the Day

A crowd cheers and chants in excitement at the corner of Vesey St. and Liberty St. next to Ground Zero after hearing that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Bin Laden planned the attacks, Sept 11, 2001 and has been hunted by American forces in the years since. He was killed by a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan near the country's capital. The Freedom Tower, the skyscraper being built where the World Trade Center towers once stood, is now 60 stories tall and was lit up and visible from the street. Eventually the Freedom Tower will be the tallest building in the country. (Photo by Sgt. Randall Clinton)

May 2, 2011

Photo of the Day

Sgt. Jorge A. Diaz, a squad leader with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, receives a Bronze Star Medal with Combat V from Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck, Jr., commanding general, III Marine Expeditionary Force, during Glueck's visit to Marine Corps Base Hawaii with Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Fierle, III MEF sergeant major, April 28, 2011. Diaz received the award for heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Sept. 17, 2010. (Photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

3/3 Marines patrol to improve counter-IED measures

Marines with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, respond to a simulated improvised explosive device detonation during counter-IED training at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, April 26, 2011. The training was part of a two-week evolution that allowed 3/3 Marines to learn and practically apply counter-IED techniques under the watchful eye of instructors from the Marine Corps Engineer Center of Excellence. During mounted and dismounted patrols, MCEC instructors introduced simulated IED explosions, small arms fire and casualty scenarios in order to guide Marines on how to mitigate the threat of IEDs, and respond to their detonation. (Photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)
By Cpl. Reece E. Lodder, Marine Corps Base Hawaii 

MARINE CORPS TRAINING AREA BELLOWS, Hawaii  — On a dusty road weaving through walls of dense brush, a squad of Marines silently pushes through another patrol. Their training is far from glamorous, but it’s their forte — they've been taught, practiced, made mistakes, succeeded and repeated the process. For these frequently deployed infantrymen, breaking in their boots during training is essential for their success overseas.

Marines and sailors with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, conducted counter-improvised explosive device training under the watchful eye of instructors from the Marine Corps Engineer Center of Excellence at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, from April 25 through 29, 2011.

“In theater, the enemy is watching us and what our Marines are doing,” Chris Nelson, a counter-IED instructor with MCEC, said. “Their tactics, techniques and procedures are maturing, and we need to mature ours so we don’t fall victim to them.”

The training was part of a two-week evolution that brought 3/3 from the classroom into the field, allowing them to learn and practically apply counter-IED techniques in the same manner as other units Corpswide. Between teaching the Marines about metal detection, homemade explosives and how to use devices that jam remote-controlled IEDs, Nelson said the instructors focused on providing Marines the skills sets to “negate, neutralize or overcome potential situations in country.”

“We’re not teaching tactics,” Nelson said. “Our focus is to ensure that their counter-IED training is current and relevant. We’re providing them the basic building blocks so they are capable of conducting the appropriate immediate action when incidents happen.”

Stepping from classes into patrols by vehicle and on foot, many of the 3/3 Marines paired their instructors’ guidance with combat experience, while the newer Marines used it to build off of their prior training. On the patrols, MCEC instructors introduced simulated IED explosions, small arms fire and casualty scenarios in order to guide Marines on how to mitigate the threat of IEDs, and respond to their detonation.

“Practicing different scenarios on these dismounted patrols is beneficial because it helps us establish our standard operating procedures,” Lance Cpl. Jonathon Garvey, a team leader with India Co., 3/3, said. “When things don’t go as planned — to have to do it exactly as you would in-country — helps so much.”

Despite melting under the blistering sun on a foot patrol, a squad from India Co. remained vigilant, maintaining their dispersion and gripping their weapons at the ready. As they moved along their route, the MCEC instructors walked with them, aware of the upcoming scenario and ready to see how the Marines would react.

Without warning, a simulated, yet jarring IED explosion disrupted their reality, catapulting the quiet area into a chaotic frenzy of movement, yelling and the sound of machinegun fire. One simulated casualty lay exposed in the danger area, but two Marines quickly moved him to safety while their squad members cordoned off the area and provided suppressing fire.

“When we’re back in garrison training, situations are notional,” Pfc. Joseph Heron, a squad automatic gunner with India Co., 3/3, said. “When you add gunfire and people running around, you get to see how everything plays out. It exposes the little nuances that need to be fixed before we deploy.”

Once the dust had settled and the scenario concluded, MCEC instructors broke the situation down from the beginning to the end. They highlighted the squad’s successes, pointed out areas of improvement and offered suggestions on how to improve their immediate action response.

“The instructors were objective,” Heron, from Philadelphia, said. “They saw our trends, critiqued us and didn’t sugar coat their response. We know we’re going to mess up, but we can correct it now while we’re training. On deployment, our lives are in each other’s hands — there’s no room for error.”

Lance Cpl. Chad Winchell, squad leader, India Co., 3/3, said the high-intensity training, realistic environment and feedback from the MCEC instructors showed the Marines different ways of thinking. He said this allowed them to practice stepping into a higher billet in the event that a senior Marine were incapacitated.

“We’re teaching them that the enemy is attacking them for a reason at that location, which gives them the mindset to maintain an aggressive posture,” Nelson said. “If we can instill the right skill set as they move on to each level of training, we’ll help make them stronger, become harder targets, and help ensure every Marine that deploys, comes back.”

Beginning in Hawaii and eventually transitioning to California, the 3/3 Marines are preparing for a late 2011 deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.