TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Slowly they crept along the hot desert floor. Periodically, they peeked over the sandy dunes - straining to focus their beady eyes through the shimmer of heat rising from the ground as the sun beat down. Tired and thirsty, the heathen force rose up, drawing every bit of strength they could muster, to implement their attack. The group popped their heads up in a disorderly fashion, only to be gunned down by men who fight with honor, courage and commitment.
Charlie Company Marines, 2d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, completed Range 103, where they sat in fighting holes, simulated a squad dug into a defensive position and annihilated pop-up targets. The range was just a portion of their training during Combined Arms Exercise 10-02 here.
These Marines have endured the Mojave Desert heat since July, when they arrived for CAX 9-02.
The smell of CLP filled the air as the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based scouts filled each magazine and sighted in, awaiting their pop-up targets.
"This is good training for us because LAR rarely sits in the defense," Pfc. Derek J. Rogers validated. "We usually scout ahead of the other Marines - the terrain and bridges. We're the eyes for the other vehicles."
Prior to the targets popping up, Cpl. Lucas J. Vankampen, acting squad leader for the range, took the fire plans from his team leaders and, just as Marines are taught, consolidated the plans onto a sturdy piece of cardboard.
When the "Crazy Ivans" sprang up, the Marines immediately sent a hail of fire down range, each round hitting its intended target.
Vankampen, of Spearfish, S.D., gave Rogers, his SAW (squad automatic weapon) gunner, pointers throughout the course of the range.
He advised the Ringoes, N.J., native on his gun movement and told him to only fire three-round bursts to limit the weapon's movement on the parapet.
"Watch for the enemy to regroup," Staff Sgt. Nelson A. Hidalgo, platoon sergeant and range safety officer warned once all the targets were down. "Always be ready for a counterattack."
The C Co. Marines redistributed ammunition. The "counterattack" came, but to no avail. The warriors, once again, quickly obliterated their marks.
After the smoke cleared and the dust settled, Cpl. Jeff M. Edey of Palmdale, Calif., gave his accolades for the range.
"This is one of the most realistic ranges. The target distances are great," the company commander's driver praised. "It's great for the scouts - right up their alley."
CAX has been a great learning experience for most of the Marines - from the scouts who trained for basic infantry defensive tactics to the drivers who logged extensive hours behind the controls of the light armored vehicles.
"I know this vehicle now - we've driven them so much out here," Lance Cpl. Fred F. Oeldeman affirmed. "The maneuvering gets pretty tight, but it's fun cutting through the ravines."
The San Diego, LAV driver said his first CAX has been a good learning experience. He said the weather is not really that bad. He would even prefer being stationed here because of how convenient it would be to go home during extended weekends.
Edey took a break from learning German to share his words of wisdom with the younger Marines.
"Expect to be busy, remember everything you are taught, pay attention to your surroundings and always remember your fellow Marines are your teammates and will keep you alive," he said.
The C Co. Marines will complete CAX 10 and return home sometime in mid-September.