RESERVISTS BRAVE COLD TO PRACTICE DEFENSIVE TACTICS
By Sgt. Sam Kille, USMCR
| | March 03, 2000
WEST POINT, N.Y. --
While most military leaders would prefer to have the upper hand and engage in offensive battle, history has shown that the need for strong defensive measures is paramount to success.
Keeping with this philosophy, the Marine reservists of 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, recently honed their defensive skills during a battalion-level field exercise at West Point, N.Y., March 3.
"Practicing the defense is something we don't do as often as we should," said LtCol. Paul Maubert, the commanding officer of 2nd Bn., 25th Mar. "Through this exercise, the Marines [of the battalion] will be better prepared."
The first order of business for the Marines was setting up the command center and establishing rear area security. Tasked with this were Marines from Headquarters and Service Company, filling a role they are rarely given during peacetime.
"Being an administration clerk, I usually sit behind a desk and hardly get the chance to go to the field," said LCpl. Flavio Rivera-Lopez, of Jackson Heights, N.Y., as he diligently watched for the "enemy" while manning an M-240G machine gun. "I'm really glad we had the opportunity to do this because you never know when we might be faced with a real life situation like this."
While the H&S Marines dug in, the battalion's infantry companies spread themselves throughout the rolling hills and rocky terrain in search of any enemy action. The terrain, coupled with nearly a half foot of snow, created some logistical problems but in the end was beneficial to the training.
"A lot of coordination goes into building defenses, and the weather can be a factor" said Maj. Ralph A. Douglas, the battalion's operations officer. "We had a few challenges [the battalion had planned to use trucks to spread its Marines out farther but could not due to deep snow in some areas]. However, we were able to adapt and improvise."
Like the saying goes, "This is just another clime and place," added Douglas, a resident of Sparta, N.J. "This battalion has a lot of experience in this environment and training hasn't been hampered yet."
Throughout the day and into the night, enemy aggressors, played by members of Weapons Company's Dragon Platoon, challenged the Marines on patrol. As the aggressors were sighted, the Marines radioed into the command center and determined a course of action. If plausible, the Marines would either engage the aggressors in a firefight or call for indirect fire support which was provided by Weapons Company's 81mm mortars.
"We were the battalion commander's hip-pocket artillery," said LCpl. Michael L. Cassidy, of Whitestone, N.Y. "Wherever they needed rounds, we put ?em there."
In addition to the squad and company-sized infantry tactics practiced during the field exercise, the battalion received a healthy dose of nuclear, biological, and chemical defense training. During several engagements, the aggressors used CS gas in their attacks.
"We haven't been doing enough NBC training," said Maubert. "I really wanted to intensify that level of training during this exercise."
To accomplish this, the Marines, when attacked, were tasked with applying the proper measures to defend themselves, to properly report the attacks, and to use NBC monitoring teams to contain the attacks.
When the long, cold day was over, the Marines were very happy to thaw out, but more importantly they were grateful for the experience.
"This was really great training," said LCpl. Rayllin R. Suero, a mortarman from the Bronx, N.Y. "Not only do we learn a lot doing this, but it makes it even more exciting to come back each month and do it all over again with your fellow Marines."
Overall, Maubert was extremely satisfied with the job done by his Marines.
"Because [as reservists] we only do this once a month, every minute counts," said Maubert. "This exercise was very well thought out and was a brilliant learning experience. West Point offered us the opportunity to train in a steep, heavily wooded area that favored the defense. It was perfect infantry country. I couldn't have asked for more."