Iraqi Freedom vets teach younger Marines

21 Nov 2003 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

A tradition in the armed services for war veterans to pass on the knowledge they gained to the newer generation of warriors, so they can go into combat ready to face the enemy.  This tradition doesn't just apply to shooting and squad movements, though.

"In Iraq, it was our job to set up the command operations center tent," said Cpl. James K. Renner.  A vehicle commander for 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Renner quickly realized the seriousness of what he once considered a menial job.  It didn't involve shooting or blowing things up, but still had a role for the mission's accomplishment.  

"The Marines in the front of the column were relying on us for everything from air strikes and medevacs, to sending them supplies," he said.

Marines like Renner returned home with a wealth of knowledge on how to accomplish their jobs in the field.

"When I deployed to OIF, I had been in the fleet Marine Corps for three weeks.  I had very little experience with the gear we were using," said Lance Cpl. Leon J. Alvarado, a driver with Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd LAR.  "I learned from the Marines who had trained setting up the equipment.  They taught me the quickest way to get the COC up and running so we could do our jobs."

According to Renner, the record time for setting up the COC in Iraq was 20 minutes.  In training, he said the average time was 35-40 minutes.

"You really move faster when you know Marines' lives could be on the line," said Renner.  The Decatur, Ill., native, continued, "You find ways to do things faster, to cut unnecessary corners to get the job done."

Renner, Alvarado, and other veterans passed on this knowledge gained in Iraq during a three-day exercise that took place Nov. 17-20.

"Normally, we'd practice setting up the tent every Wednesday.  We got to be pretty good at it, but when you add in factors like weather and dust, you have to learn new ways to get old things done," said Renner.

Newer 2nd LAR Marines will benefit from the knowledge the veterans bring, but not only in setting up a tent and communication equipment. 

"It isn't just about setting up camp.  It's how to live, how to get the job done under adverse conditions.  As a noncommissioned officer, with even a little experience, it's our job to pass it on the younger Marines," Renner said.