TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- They moved without a sound, patrolling the desert floor, avoiding rocks and razor sharp constantine wire - ever observant of their surroundings. Sweat ran into their eyes, but these desert warriors didn't flinch. The battle-ready Leathernecks blocked out the pain ignoring the searing heat of their loaded weapons, and the fact it was more than 110 blistering degrees under the Mojave Desert sun.
The Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion Marines executed immediate action drills here as part of Combined Arms Exercise 9-02. The Charlie Company, 3rd Platoon, forward observers prepared themselves for patrols where enemy contact is likely, shooting pop-up targets at Range 108.
Gunnery Sgt. H. C. Bryant said the reconnaissance breed is like no other.
"They're older and more mature than any others. They're motivated and dedicated, not only to the Corps, but to the mission - they'll work 'til they drop," the Hampstead, N.C., platoon sergeant said about his Marines.
One Marine did just that when he got overheated, but with the quick care provided by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric B. Centeno, a combat corpsman with the company, and the other Marines, he was kept calm as he cooled off in the shade to rehydrate.
The training continued into the afternoon with the Marines patrolling the range in a team of five: the team leader, and alpha and bravo elements. The team leader and the "A" element lead the search, with "B" element keeping an eye on their "six" until enemy contact occurred, Staff Sgt. Richard M. Harrison explained.
He said when targets popped up everyone aimed in and annihilated them. The elements then provided suppression fire for one another, so they could "peel back" to a safe distance.
The Jacksonville, Fla., native said each element bounded back, providing cover-fire, using smoke grenades, rifles and squad automatic weapons. Once the enemy threat was eliminated, the Marines consolidated into a hasty-180 for training purposes.
The company radio chief said in a real situation, they would form a hasty-360, keeping weapons pointed outward, checking for casualties and an accurate ammunition count.
According to Cpl. Dan R. Krasucki, training in the desert is the most realistic training you can get.
"Out here, the biggest benefits are the
different weather conditions, the fact that we get more live rounds than at Lejeune and that we get to improve our observation and reporting skills," the Rochester, N.Y., Marine said.
Cpl. R. Eric Carlson said he benefits from the difference in terrain and spending time with the gear - communications, weapons, vehicles and motorcycles.
"During FINEX (CAX's final exercise) we get to call in live rounds from artillery and close-air-support. I'm really looking forward to that," the Phoenix team leader said.
Harrison said to call in support, Marines need solid lines of communication. He explained that each team received classes on their "comm" gear to ensure everyone fully understood its functions.
"Comm is vital for recon Marines. They're the ones who shape the battlefield and control its tempo," Harrison stressed. "If communications between us and the ground combat element goes down, they can't effectively receive integral intelligence reports used to develop plans of attack."
Understanding how to pass the information with gear is important, but communication and cohesion within the unit is also important, combat veterans, Harrison and Bryant said.
Harrison said these Marines were recently pieced together from different units, and because of this, there are many levels of experience here. However, he stressed everyone has meshed together to work as a team.
"This platoon really has the drive to be something. They're intent to learn and their motivation is very high," Bryant said. "Even though many of them are nearing their(end of active service) they haven't dropped their packs. That's the kind of heart it takes to do this. It doesn't matter if the Marine is big or small - it's the size of his heart."
The C Co. Marines will finish CAX 9-02 later this month. A Co. is scheduled to tackle CAX 10-02.