MARINE CORPS BASE TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The reassurance of family and friends, and the overall comfort of familiarity with their immediate surroundings is a comfort many people, both military and civilian, take for granted.
This situation occurs often for Marines as units near their deployment dates. Units like 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, have been scheduled of leaving their comfort zone of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., as they prepare to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
More than 1,000 Marines with 2/6 arrived here Nov. 28 to partake in the painstaking training evolution known as Mojave Viper.
“We will be here for about a month, gents,” said Lt. Col. William F. Mullen, commanding officer of 2/6, during a brief held for all the Marines within the unit. “My goal for everyone is to safely return to Camp Lejeune without any incidents.”
The base here has the largest training area of Marine Corps Bases Camp Lejeune, Camp Pendleton and Quantico combined. Within the training area resides Camp Wilson, a training Forward Operating Base, home to thousands of Marines from units across the country who currently within the training rotation of Mojave Viper.
Upon arrival here, 2/6 was caught in a well-known cliché in the Corps: hurry up and wait. The Marines were firmly planted in a week-long waiting period of setting up shop while waiting for their training schedule to begin. Some sections within 2/6, like the attached elements of 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, took advantage of the borrowed time and conducted short exercises to break up the daily routine.
Using the experience of Marines who have both been with the unit for awhile and have completed tours in Iraq led the junior or inexperienced combat engineers through the process of breaching concertina wire and mine fields.
“With no training schedule yet, we decided to train the Marines who haven’t been with the unit as long how to complete a mechanized breach through concertina wire,” said Lance Cpl. Jeremy W. Kim, a combat engineer and assistant squad leader with Combat Engineer Battalion, 2/6. “Getting the Marines on the same page is our top priority. We only have a few more months before we deploy so training as much as possible is key to how well we will operate in Iraq.”
At the beginning of the training schedule, the unit woke up at 3:00 a.m. to prepare themselves for a 10-mile hump wearing flak jackets and Kevlar helmets, and carrying their weapons across the cold, dark desert. Once completed, they shuffled via bus to the main side of base where classes about Iraqi culture, prisoner of war situations, codes of conduct, desert survival, the overall training cycle, desert wildlife and other briefs were held pertaining to both Mojave Viper and Iraq.
“Everyone sitting in this room can withstand more punishment than any common person. It’s hardwired into your system,” said Lt. Col. Christopher A. Ross, deputy director with Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command here, during the prisoner of war brief. “If you are the weak link, you will be the one sitting in the interrogation room the longest. Be strong.”
One week after stepping foot in the California desert, the Marines were finally able to move into their designated workspaces to officially begin their training. Although the Marines will miss certain events in November, such as the Marine Corps birthday and Thanksgiving, they continue to push on, because like Ross said, it is hardwired into the minds of every Marine.