TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- "I was nervous because of the unfamiliarity of the terrain," said Lance Cpl. Brian Marinaro about riding a Marine Corps 650cc Kawasaki motorcycle through the sand and hills of the Mojave Desert.
Marinaro, a radio operator with Marine Air Ground Task Force 2 here, is training with the rest of his Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based unit for Combined Arms Exercise 9-02 at Camp Wilson. Marinaro joined four other 2nd Marine Regiment cyclists today for what he called a routine, but challenging ride.
The Naugatuck, Conn., Marine, who's rode now for less than a month, said as a radio operator he uses the bike to deliver messages or other sensitive material in a field environment.
According to Master Sgt. Thomas Garrett, the regiment motor transport chief, the motorcycles can be used for more than passing messages.
He explained the motorcycles are very versatile and can be used to lead convoys in the field, and conduct route reconnaissance.
"Say for instance we suspect the enemy on a ridgeline, and other larger vehicles can't get to them," the Mansfield, Ohio, Marine said. "The bikes are quieter and can get the heck out of there. And later report the info they saw back to the rear."
Garrett said there are 16 Kawasaki bikes in the regiment, and four are in use for each of the regiment's battalions. He said the training the Marines get starts back at Lejeune at 2nd Marine Division's Combat Motorcycle Course.
The course, which is two-weeks long, teaches the Marines the ins-and-outs of the motorcycles, as well as the skills needed to maneuver the bikes in combat.
Marinaro said it takes more than pushing a clutch and steering.
"You have to be in good physical shape to handle the bikes," he said. "You can take a pounding on the trails. In school, I ran into a tree."
The 26-year-old said mental preparation is also an important factor.
"You can be driving down a trail and if you take your mind of what you're doing, the next thing you know you're on your backside wiping the dust off. All it takes is a bump you don't expect."
Garrett said the Corps' used the bikes since the early 1990s. He said about the only change with them is that now they operate with a 650 cc engine versus a prior 250cc. He said the Corps is talking now that it may convert the bikes to a diesel engine model in the future.
Other MAGTF riders on the trail with Marinaro include - Sgt. James Butland of Virginia Beach, Va.; Cpl. Jonathon Azar of Lake Havasu City, Ariz.; Cpl. Tadeusz Dominiak of Clarksville, Tenn.; and Pfc. Matt McDonough of Lake in the Hills, Ill.
The Marines are scheduled to complete CAX 9 sometime in mid-August. They are scheduled to stay here and participate in CAX 10.