MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJUENE N.C. --
They are stealth – vanishing into the tree line. They are silence – noiselessly fading into the sounds of the forest. They are predators – laying in wait as their prey approaches. “Open fire!” rings out from the forest and gunfire shatters the silence as a squad of Marines with 8th Communication Battalion ambush the enemy.
This scene played out repeatedly as Marines with 8th Communication Battalion, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, conducted a 10-day field training operation aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 17 - 26.
The Marines’ training began in a classroom where they received instruction on convoy operations, patrolling, land navigation and crew-served weapons. They also earned sustainment hours through lessons in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and were taught squad-level-tactics incorporating both offensive and defensive operations.
“I’ve been through the MCMAP portion of the training and it’s probably the best MCMAP training I’ve ever received,” said Lance Cpl. Mikel Lawhorn, supply fiscal chief, Headquarters Company, 8th Communication Battalion. “It was well-organized with plenty of instructors making sure the Marines understood the moves. They even showed us a few things from belt classes above our own in order to help give us an edge in our future training.”
The field training focused on giving the Marines the skills and knowledge that will help them in their future deployments. It also re-taught some of the basics that all Marines learn early on, such as how to work an entry control point and vehicle checkpoint.
“I’ve never been deployed,” said Pfc. Yvonne McKinney, warehouse clerk, HQ Co., 8th Comm. Bn. “But I know when I deploy I’m going to need the skills we’ve learned throughout this training. Especially with things like the entry control point which is more than likely something I will actually be doing when I deploy.”
The Marines took part in scenarios which put their offensive and defensive tactics to the test as squads were pit against one another. During the scenarios, each squad established a patrol base and began sending out patrols in search of the enemy squad. The Marines also built fighting positions to defend against assaults and ambushes.
“The ambushes were intense,” said McKinney. “But it was a lot of fun.”
Throughout the scenarios the Marines’ training was evaluated through the use of the Integrated Target Environment Scenario Tool or ITEST, which acted much like an advanced version of the equipment used in laser tag. The ITEST recorded information such as where the Marines were hit by an enemy’s laser, the Marines’ GPS position and their number of blank rounds fired.
“The Marines have done a remarkable job,” said Lt. Col. Michael Schweighardt, commanding officer, 8th Comm. Bn. “Especially because many of the Marines haven’t been out to the field training areas much, so for a lot of them it’s a new experience.”
The final exercise of the training was taking down and packing up the entire communications network and forward operating base the Marines worked diligently to construct and maintain over their 10 days of training.
“This has been great training,” said Gunnery Sgt. Shannon Childress, company gunnery sergeant, HQ Co., 8th Comm. Bn. “The Marines have been challenged while having fun doing it and they’ll all walk away with skills and knowledge that will help them in the future.”