MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Marines from Company D, Security Cooperation Task Force, African Partnership Station 2011, 2nd Marine Division, returned to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., from a successful deployment to parts of Senegal and Gabon, June 23, 2011.
The Marines were deployed as part of ongoing efforts to encourage bilateral training and to foster positive ongoing relationships with foreign military branches.
The Marines, whose home unit is 2nd Amphibious Assault Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, faced the tough challenges of jungle warfare training, teaching the skills that were instilled in them as junior Marines and a language barrier from operating in a foreign country.
"I think being in that environment makes us appreciate what we have here (in America),” said 1st Lt. Michael Thomas, a platoon commander for Company D. “The men in the African (militaries) have amazing spirit and an amazing learning curve. They do so much with the small amount of supplies they have.”
The first part of the deployment consisted of jungle warfare training, a Marine skill that Cpl. Joseph M. Gillen, an amphibious assault vehicle crewman with APS-11, says many Marines are getting away from.
“I know that jungle warfare has been going on for generations in the Marine Corps,” says Gillen, “but I think we’ve been lacking in it because of the climates of the places Marines are fighting in now. I think we’re just a little rusty.”
The training encompassed patrolling in densely forested areas, survival in the dangers of a typical African jungle, setting up gun emplacements, and conducting defensive operations. During the training the biggest problem the Marines encountered was that in the places they visited, the African people only spoke French.
“It was really tough at first because we only had a few interpreters, so when we would break down into small groups we had trouble communicating,” said Lance Cpl. John Schultz, an AAV crewman with Company D. “It was only a matter of time until we were using things like simple hand motions to communicate what needed to be accomplished.”
During the second half of the deployment, it was the Marines’ turn to teach and lead. They instructed the African service members in Marine tactics, techniques and procedures.
“This is the only outside training these men receive, so they were more than willing to soak up every piece of knowledge we could give them,” said Thomas. “We only had short training periods of three weeks, so we had to make the most of each and every day.”
The Marines described their experience during the deployment as good training and hard work, but overall they were just happy to be home, as were their loved ones who they left behind.
“I was excited for my husband to deploy because I knew he had wanted the opportunity, but I’m excited to have him home to witness the birth of our first child,” said the wife of Lance Cpl. Jeffery Lowe, an AAV Crewman with Company D. “I knew he’d be well taken care of,” she said, “but I couldn’t help but be anxious.”
Marines and sailors both worked hard in this short period of time to educate and be educated. While there were the challenges of overcoming language barriers, learning new skills and teaching another military a whole new set of tactics, the Marines of Company D took that challenge head on and came out as better Marines.