MARINE CORPS TRAINING AREA BELLOWS — Marines with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, conducted patrols and room clearing through Military Operations in Urban Terrain facilities, part of Exercise Island Viper aboard Marine Corps Training Area Bellows on Sept. 29.
Exercise Island Viper is a 3-week-long battalion level training evolution workup that focuses on sharpening the infantry skills of the individual, team and squad.
2nd Lt. Shane Wescott, a platoon commander with Company A, 1st Bn., 3rd. Marines, observed his Marines’ progress throughout the 3 weeks of training.
“Marines have been conducting operations at the MOUT facilities with role-players and navigating through jungle-like terrain,” said Wescott, a North Andover, Massachusetts, native. “Up at the range we have Bravo Company doing live-fire maneuvering, which allows squad leaders to call and coordinate integrate support fire from mortars and machineguns. Here at Boondockers, Marines with Charlie worked together to complete obstacles on the Leadership Reaction Course and an Improvised Explosive Ordinance lane where they could start watching out for roadside bombs.”
He said this exercise is where the Marines demonstrate their individual skills and practice repetition for all the different unit levels of training.
“From the basic mag reloads as a basic rifleman, to firing weapons as accurately as possible to coordinating night patrols through urban terrain the Marine trained hard,” Wescott said. “I’m out there not evaluating, but confirming that they understand the skills and knowledge to do their jobs right.”
Sgt. Patrick Eastham, a squad leader with Company C, 1st Bn., 3rd Marines, led his Marines on patrols and talked to them as a group.
“Alpha conducted helo-borne operations with Super Stallions on MCTAB and then started patrolling through MOUT facilities that had role-players acting as innocent villagers and hostiles,” said Eastham, a Clarksville, Tennessee, native. “The Marines had to figure out how to identify Improvised Explosive Devices, keep a look out for any suspicious activity and respond to ambushes.”
He said there was a lot of improvement from the start of the exercise to the end.
“My expectations for my Marines are for them to get their feet wet and improve on their mistakes they commit during this exercise,” said Eastham. “Some of the Marines have not had the opportunity to practice in the MOUT facilities or interact with role players acting as villagers or hostiles, which adds that much realism to the training.”
He said the Marines pushed through Exercise Island Viper, but they should always ask questions and help each other through the hardships.
“My Marines pushed through, but were a little rocky at first and then gradually improved,” Eastham said. “With more repetition, they will get that much better. Best advice I give them is look to your leaders for advice, if you don’t know something, always ask.”
Lance Cpl. Sean Clancy, an assistant patrol leader with Company C, 1st Bn., 3rd Marines, said this exercise was excellent training for his junior Marines to not quit during Exercise Island Viper.
“(Exercise Island Viper) was my first field operation when I joined the Marine Corps over three years ago,” said Clancy, a Hampshire, Illinois, native. “Since then it has been my favorite field op out of all the other exercises and deployments. It’s a well-rounded exercise and it’s pretty much the only time we get this many role players and to me it’s great training.”
He said there’s always room for improvement no matter how well trained they are or how many repetitions they complete.
“Everyone assumes this exercise is the time to be perfect, but in reality it is an opportunity for Marines to fail, and then learn from those mistakes,” Clancy said. “In future deployments the training will show how cohesive we are as a squad.”
He said he always emphasized to his Marines how they should recognize the small mistakes and take all the training seriously.
“Train like you fight,” Clancy said. “Don’t gaff it off, you might not go on a combat deployment, but your junior Marines after you will. Everyone needs to give it their all during every exercise and deployment. We had a rocky start during the workup, but you can see the improvement in our Marines and there is always room for improvement.”
Story by Lance Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres