24th MEU's BLT, MSSG CONQUER FORT A. P. HILL

17 Nov 2000 | Sgt. Kevin Dolloson

"Beans, Bullets and Band aids" - There was a lot more than that around Fort A. P. Hill recently when the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Battalion Landing Team 2/8 (BLT 2/8) and MEU Service Support Group - 24 (MSSG - 24) took part in their first integration field exercise.

From Nov. 1 - 17 Marines and Sailors have honed the skills that were previously taught to them. 

BLT 2/8

For the BLT, the training involves individual and collective measures, which focus on team, squad and platoon-level maneuvers.

According to LtCol. Daniel Rogers, BLT 2/8 Commanding Officer, this training strengthens the battalion.

"Training at A. P. Hill allows the BLT to solidify itself as a unit," he said.

"The majority of the training is live-fire and since training day one, Marines of the BLT have averaged 10 to 13 live-fire ranges per day," added Rogers.

He also added that his Marines have shot more than 250,000 rounds of various weapon systems to include the MK-19, .50 Caliber and M240G machineguns.

Fort A. P. Hill affords the BLT quite different terrain and live-fire capabilities than Camp Lejeune does.

"This has been a good training evolution for all the Marines," said SSgt. Norville Howe, Fox Co. Small Unit Leader, from Moundsville, W. Va.  "It's been an eye-opener for some of them, but we all benefit from it."

Cpl. Jeremy Barron, of Dothan, Ala. and Jersey City, N. J. native LCpl. John Friend, both Fox Co. Infantrymen, echo each other on the necessity of the training.

"It's definitely a part of training that's needed," they said.  "And we get a little taste of the cold weather while we shoot live rounds."

Some of the Marines and Sailors learned valuable lessons while enjoying the experience.

"It's been a fun exercise," said Pvt. Ronnie Stewart, Infantryman, from Memphis, Tenn.  "I've learned that you have to rely on communication and it has to be a one hundred percent team effort."

Hospitalman Apprentice Thomas Tatman, of Port Arthur, Texas echoed Stewart and added that he's enjoyed learning the "Concepts of fire team rushes and how a squad works together to complete an objective."

According to LtCol. Rogers, another important aspect of training for the BLT, is the interaction with MSSG-24.

"We actually had to use their dental services because a Marine needed some dental work done," he said.

MSSG-24

For the MSSG, A. P. Hill training has allowed it to perform at full capacity, which prepares them for PMINT [PHIBRON - MEU Integration exercise] in December.

According to Maj. D. Flynn, MSSG-24 Executive Officer, this is the first in a series of exercises that prepares them for deployment in April 2001.

"This is our first evolution in preparation for SOCEX," said Flynn.  "Our next focus is PMINT, and with each exercise we want to take our a Marines a step closer to preparedness."

The training evolution for the MSSG usually begins with a convoy.   Once they arrive at the area of operation, the first objective is to set up the Combat Service Support Operations Center (CSSOC). 

Then tents for all aspects of service and support follow, like medical, dental, trucks, maintenance, engineers, personnel bivouac site, as well as the humanitarian assistance site.

Once security from its own military police detachment is formed around the perimeter of the Combat Service Support Area (CSSA), the MSSG is then prepared to deal with any contingency.

In a field environment, engineers have the capability to build 'field showers' that provide hot water.

According to LCpl. Kendrick Thomas, Utilities Water Engineer, from West Columbia, S.C., MSSG-24 has the capability of providing an unusually commodity for a field environment to the entire MEU if necessary.

"We can provide hot showers for the entire MEU," he said.

In addition to providing hot showers, MSSG supports the BLT in whatever capacity that is needed, whether it's transportation, medical, dental or supplies.

During this training evolution, Marines and Sailors of MSSG got to focus on a little basic training as well.

"For some of these Marines and Sailors, this is their first exposure other than [Marine Combat Training], or Recruit Training to do live-fire, or even be in a field environment," said Flynn.  "We should be able to support the BLT, or the entire MEU, in addition to doing fire and movement courses and training in general."

"This is where we learn the basics," he added.

"We've focused on building the team," said LtCol. John Lopez, MSSG-24 Commanding Officer.  "and we've definitely met our goals."

Several Marines welcome and appreciate the experience the field environment has to offer.

"Doing this training helps me understand my job and how it fits in with the bigger scheme of how the MSSG operates," said LCpl. Adam Gilbert, Computer Technician, from Lexington, Tenn.

Pittsburgh, Pa. native, Sgt. Tim Seldon, Welder, said that most Marines don't get this required knowledge in garrison and that "The training learned here is useful in real-world situations."

"The [Humanitarian Assistance] helped to clarify a lot," said Cpl. Ricardo Walker, Fabric Repair Specialist, from Silver Spring, Md.  "Coming out here and setting it up gives you a better picture of what it's like and makes you more prepared for a real-world situation."

Cpl. Nathan Ratliff, Ground Radio Repairman, from Orlando, Fla., summed up the training evolution pretty well.

"Coming out here applying what we've learned is a good starting block," he said.  "and it can only get better from here."

Follow the 24th MEU pre-deployment on their website at www.usmc.mil/24meu.