MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, Calif. --
Usually Halloween is a time to pretend to be something your not and take a break from the everyday routine, but on Oct. 31, Marines from 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, didn’t take a day off; they kept training.
Marines from Mortars Platoon, Weapons Company had to learn a skill that has been passed down for generations and may make their platoon more combat effective.
Using mules, the Marines learned the skill of animal packing. While it may seem simple to some, Lance Cpl. Keith D. Hassa, a mortarman, was one of three Marines from his platoon to receive the formal instruction. He explained that there is a lot of technical skill that comes with properly packing any animal.
“We had to be able to make a box hitch, a diamond hitch, a barrel hitch, a manie pack; we learned to pack, saddle and ride them, where to feed and water them,” said the Wadena, Minn. native. “There’s a lot involved.”
Although it may seem crude, the art of animal packing actually has many practical uses. Sgt. John A. Freeseha, a master packer instructor here, explained that anywhere there is mountainous terrain, Marines would benefit greatly from this skill.
“Anywhere you can walk these animals can walk carrying a good 500 pounds and they can get places where it’s impossible to get vehicles, so it could be a great advantage to these Marines,” said the Escalon, Calif., native. “If you know how to pack a mule, the same principles apply to packing anything from a dog to an elephant.”
Animal packing skills also give Marines freedom of movement on the battlefield. Tactical vehicles are loud, attract attention and are limited to roads; these animals are not. Sgt. Joe B. Neal, a master packer instructor here, said he believes the animals may let Marines avoid many firefights.
“These animals aren’t restricted to the road, they can move more freely through the mountains,” said the Van Buren, Mich., native. “With these animals Marines can stay off the main roads, also having the advantage of not having to carry everything on their backs, which allows them to move faster.”
Leadership within the platoon seemed to think that the class was an excellent idea, hoping this skill will prepare the men for future deployments.
“There’s a lot of weight involved in moving platoon, when you count the mortar system and then the three to four rounds that each individual carries,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Korabik, the platoon sergeant. “Since we don’t have vehicles, we’re getting a chance to see how well these mortars can move using these animals.”
Cpl. Timothy A. Chuzas, a squad leader for the platoon, looked at the training from a combat stance.
“Utilizing large animals lets us have more guys available to fight, which in the long run makes us more combat effective and keeps the morale up,” said the Stafford, Conn., native.
After this training, Marines from 3rd Bn., 9th Marines feel more confident in their ability to use any type of pack animal if necessary. They have a new weapon in the fight against America’s enemies, and a little extra something that lets them push on an extra mile.