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RCT-2 swings back into Iraq groove

30 Oct 2006 | Lance Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz

As the noon sun rose above the dense Virginia forest, the trees parted and gave way to an open field. There, a small group of Marines called in airborne medical evacuation helicopters for their wounded brothers.  Only a few miles away, another group of Marines were engaging enemy targets with medium and heavy machine guns.  No, this was not a scene from a new movie coming soon to a theater near you; these were Marines from Regimental Combat Team-2 conducting their pre-deployment training at Fort Ambrose Powell Hill, Oct. 16- 28.

“The officers, staff NCOs (non-commissioned officers), and NCOs put their classes together well,” said Col. Stacy Clardy, commanding officer for RCT-2. “The training pertained quite well to what’s going on in Iraq.”

The pre-deployment training classes ranged from infantry tactics to classes on how to understand the Iraqi culture.

Marines with Middle-Eastern backgrounds, cultural experts from Headquarters Marine Corps, taught the Marines how to better understand the hierarchy of Iraqi towns, the “left hand rule” and the general mannerisms of the people.

“The people are a key to success of counterinsurgency.  Unless they know us, we won’t know them.  By knowing us, they will better understand democracy,” Clardy explained.

The next period of instruction covered medical evacuations. The Marines listened intently as they were instructed how to call helicopters in to evacuate the wounded during the training exercise.

“Now these Marines can say, ‘I’ve done this before. I know how to do this if I have to in a hostile environment,’” said 1st Lt. Christopher Allen, series 1 platoon commander, RCT-2.

The casualty evacuation classes ended in a helicopter ride for the Marines evacuating the wounded.  While the wounded were being evacuated, Marines made sure communications between the ground and helicopters were working properly.

“The younger Marines need to train like this so they can prepare for war.  It’s also a good refresher to hone your past skills,” said Sgt. Sean Wynn, a network security information assurance NCO and platoon sergeant for Headquarters Company, RCT-2.

The Marines helped the wounded and learned about the Iraqi culture, but they also learned how to become better intelligence collectors in the field.

“Everyday, Marines get exposed to a lot of intel that could really help us out,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Hudgins III, intelligence chief for RCT-2.

The class taught Marines to speak with local leaders in Iraqi towns to gain information on insurgents’ whereabouts and future plans.

“That little piece of information might help key us into a large volume of information we never knew existed,” Hudgins said.

Hudgins went on to explain that fighting the insurgency in Iraq is unlike traditional warfare.

“Iraq is not a force-on-force fight with a clear enemy,” Hudgins said.  “You have to know how he thinks, feels, eats and breathes.”

The training at Fort A.P. Hill honed Marines’ combat skills and also let them bond together as a fighting force.

“This training put us back in the mindset of what the Marine Corps is all about: a band of brothers,” explained 1st Sgt. Jesse Mitchell, Headquarters Company first sergeant for RCT-2.

The Marines from RCT-2 successfully accomplished their    pre-deployment training while at Fort A.P. Hill.  Soon, they will be putting this training to use during their upcoming deployment to Iraq.

“What’s needed in Iraq to be successful is a professional, well-led force that understands its mission,” Clardy explained. “I see that in regimental headquarters. I’m very pleased with what we accomplished.”