ABOARD USS IWO JIMA -- While 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines are aboard ship and preparing themselves for combat, they are thrust into a perpetual cycle of weapons maintenance and equipment inventory to ensure that when the time comes for them to grab their gear and hit the deck, they are primed and ready.
The Marines must also prepare their most important weapon -- themselves. Each Marine in the MEU must perform a personal inventory of his or her own physical readiness to be ready to go in a moment’s notice.
24th MEU Marines assigned to the command element recently formed up to build their unit cohesion and their muscles by using the flight deck of the USS Iwo Jima for some physical training while underway.
Sgt. Maj. Andy Crout, the MEU sergeant major, called for the command element-wide PT session to gauge the combat readiness of his Marines and was pleased with what he found.
“PT to me is extremely important,” said Crout. “Studies have shown that those who go into a combat environment in better shape have a better chance of survival. It’s also usually a good indicator of how tight a unit is by how well they PT together.”
The Marines rose to the occasion and completed the 40-minute session composed of running and calisthenics. This type of evolution is designed to keep the Marines moving quickly and build their stamina. This aids the Marines in combat when they are traversing the battlefield with upwards of 70 pounds of gear on their backs, including body armor, weapon and their combat-load of ammunition.
The way this type of training impacts a unit’s combat effectiveness isn’t lost on the staff non-commissioned officer corps of the command element.
“I think it went pretty good,” said Gunnery Sgt. Douglas Mrusek, ground watch chief for the 24th MEU. “Everybody was at a pretty good level, considering that we’ve been on ship for about two months. I think we need to get out here more often, and right now that’s the plan. We need to get our bodies in shape and minds in shape so we are ready for future operations.”
It is a challenge to maintain aboard ship a level of fitness that most Marines are used to simply because of the space and the number of people all competing to work out. But the 24th MEU Marines are up to the challenge.
Most of the Marines frequently engage in some type of physical training on their own or in conjunction with their section PT requirements. The session provided Marines and their staff noncommissioned officers an opportunity to see where they are physically in comparison to where they should be, especially if they find themselves in a combat environment in the coming months.
“I think it would be good if this became a trend,” said Sgt. Michael Wissmeyer, Ground Sensor Platoon team leader. “I personally think that it’s just a good time to get out there and do something.”
The Marines of the 24th MEU are currently deployed in the Mediterranean Sea in support of contingency operations in Lebanon. The 24th MEU is composed of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marines; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced); and MEU Service Support Group 24.