Djibouti -- Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit recently ended training in Djibouti after completing a second iteration of a grueling and extensive three-week training package focused on mountain-based infantry skills intended to increase tactical superiority in rugged environments.
The training events comprised multiple facets of Marine Corps infantry skills: from tests of strength and endurance to land navigation and desert survival skills, and culminated in a five day, force-on-force scenario designed to test everything they learned while ashore.
The Marines started the training with classes on employment of various communications equipment, indirect fire coordination, and basic survival skills like starting fires and finding water. They were also put to the test while participating in a mountain survival course that taught them how to rappel and operate in the terrain they would face throughout the evolution.
This initial training was necessary to prepare the Marines before setting them off on their own during the final force-on-force event, where they were challenged to think ahead of their enemy and react quickly, said Capt. Juan Ramos, officer-in-charge of the training.
The force-on-force exercise forced the Marines to divide into separate elements and play out a loosely-scripted scenario in a simulated battlefield within the coastal mountains overlooking the Gulf of Tadjoura.
During the force-on-force event the Marines operated with minimal supervision and were responsible to calling in food and water resupply, gathering intelligence on their “enemy”, and maintaining strong unit cohesion to help their unit navigate in trying terrain.
This was the second platoon of Marines from Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, based from the USS Iwo Jima, who were joined by a contingent of Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 24, the logistics combat element of the 24th MEU.
This mix of Marines from various elements of the 24th MEU allowed the participants to refine their basic war fighting skills and gain a new appreciation for the logistics support behind tactical resupplies along with the importance of each other’s role in the entire Marine Air Ground Task Force.
“It gives some shared understanding of what each other does. They have to call in resupplies and use the Raven (a small unmanned aerial vehicle) to gather intel. So they are learning from each other,” said Ramos.
At the end of the force-on-force event the Marines enjoyed a friendly competition against each other in an event aptly named “The Warrior Competition”. During the competition the Marines went head-to-head in various events that you’d expect Marines to compete in like physical fitness and live-fire ranges to test marksmanship.
Despite their fatigue, they made the best of the final week with many of the Marines speaking highly of the training.
“Some of these events out here are pretty good. This swim, run, shoot, run endurance course is pretty legit,” said Cpl. Michael Schmitt, a squad leader with Bravo Company.
The logistics Marines from CLB-24 who joined the training this time around received the opportunity to train alongside their infantry brethren enjoyed the training as well.
“I definitely feel more like a Marine after doing this… We learn the basics at Marine Combat Training (where non-infantry Marines go for combat training immediately after boot camp), but here we’ve really been able to apply those skills. I think that this opportunity was really good for these guys,” said Cpl. Raphael Padilla, a cook with CLB-24, and native of Bolivia.
The completion of this final training package marks another step closer towards the 24th MEU completing their deployment to the U.S. Navy’s 6th and 5th areas of responsibility.
“Overall, this has been a good experience,” said Cpl. Kenneth G. Marks, a squad leader with Bravo Company, and a Richmond, Va., native.
The 24th MEU is deployed with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group as a theater reserve and crisis response force throughout the U.S. Central Command in the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet area of responsibility. A small contingent of Marines has been ashore in Djibouti since August managing various unilateral, bilateral and joint exercises with other U.S. service members and French forces stationed in Djibouti.