Marines come together for training

6 Aug 2002 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

A group of 14 Marines and one sailor from Camp Lejeune, N.C., shared knowledge and supplies with Paraguayan and Bolivian riverine forces during the riverine phase of UNITAS 43-02 July 13-28.

The two-week exercise is an annual event that allows United States forces to exchange ideas and learn about their foreign counterparts.

"I get all excited when people want to learn," said Cpl. Gilbert J. Hernandez, a machine-gunner and coxswain from Small Craft Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division.

Each of the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force team members had a vital part to play during the exercise. One of the primary missions was to educate Paraguayan and Bolivian forces about small-boat and small-arms tactics, field medicine and staff planning.

"We really appreciate what the United States gives to us," said Paraguayan Navy Lt. Navio Filemón Duarte, second in command of the Paraguayan ship Itaipu. "When they send people here to teach us about tactics, we can take that knowledge back to our units and share it with others."

The United States sends a group of Marines to the country to perform live-fire exercises with the Paraguayan and Bolivian riverine forces each year.

During the rest of the year, Paraguayan military personnel train young men who begin their required one-year stint in the army.

"There's a lot of classroom time when we train the new troops," said Duarte, who has served as a naval aviator for more than 14 years. "We can't get nearly enough hands-on training."

Guillermo Román, a Paraguayan infantryman of the Paraguayan Marine Corps Amphibious Commandoes, explained the training that occurs during the year.

"Mostly we are in the classrooms or we go out and simulate firing our weapons while we patrol," he stated. "We go out to the field maybe once or twice a year for a period of two weeks at a time."

Some of the major topics U.S. Marines stressed during this deployment included patrolling and navigation tactics on water and land, according to Hernandez, a Hoboken, N.J., native.  The U.S. Marines also gave classes about marksmanship, maps and charts.

"We're really appreciative of this training," said Román. "It helps us remember the stuff we've forgotten or learn the stuff we didn't know."