MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, has pitched a plausible goal to shed about 20,000 Marines: roughly 5,000 troops a year over the next five years. In February, Amos told the House Armed Services Committee he’s confident that the Corps can effectively reduce its numbers from 202,100 to 182,100.
With the drawdown in full effect, recruiters are allowing fewer people to join, Marines are finding it harder to reenlist and some units are being disbanded.
One of the units on the long list of deactivations, 5th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, is slated to furl its colors around June this year.
Although the artillery battalion is losing Marines left and right to other units, it’s doing its best to remain an expeditionary force in readiness. Troops with Battery R, 5th Bn., 10th Marines, made time to conduct Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training, which included a run through of the Battle Skills Training School’s infamous endurance course, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, March 10.
“We’re shrinking by the day,” said 1st Lt. Conor Dooley, the Headquarters Company platoon commander. “It’s essentially a battalion becoming a battery, becoming a platoon and then eventually a fire team. It’s getting harder and harder to find things to train them with as the group shrinks. Things like (the endurance course) are good for building camaraderie and it’s nice to get a break from the day-to-day routine.”
Dooley added that MCMAP, military occupational skill specific training and general team-building exercises have been making up for the majority of the Marines’ time left with 5th Bn., 10th Marines.
“We’re trying to work individually with the Marines using the knowledge we have of what units they’re going to and preparing them,” said Dooley. “We’re also just trying to get a wide breadth of both individual skills camaraderie buildings skills we can send them off with. I had a lot of fun at the course. It was legitimately filthy and smelled bad but I had a good time.”
Knowing that the unit is going to disband, 5th Bn., 10th Marines, still wanted to meet training standards as much as they could, said Staff Sgt. Sean Honickel, operations chief with the battalion.
“We came out here and got all the Marines through the course,” said Honickel. “I think the Marines enjoyed themselves and got some good training.”
Honickel added that he and a number of other leaders with the unit went through the course last, so they could make sure no Marines were left behind and everyone made it through safely.
“Getting through some of the difficult portions of the mud or deeper water, I was surprised at the way the Marines handled themselves,” said Honickel. “A lot of times, you see people hesitant and not wanting to get through it. They all jumped right in and fought through the whole course.”
Sgt. Edward Ballard, a field artillery cannoneer with Battery R, said the course was vigorous but a lot of fun and motivating.
“There were much more puddles, swamps and mud than we expected,” explained Ballard. “We did it to build camaraderie within the unit and prove that Marines still have that warrior spirit and ethos.”