October 3, 2008

22nd MEU Marines train at Fort Pickett

By Lance Cpl. Justin M. Martinez
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit

FORT PICKETT, Va.—Marines with Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, received hands-on weapon system training Sept. 25 during a two and a half week long field training exercise aboard Fort Pickett, Va., a Virginia Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center.

The Fort Pickett training, also known as off-site training, is the first pre-deployment training exercise for BLT 3/2 since it became the Ground Combat Element for the 22nd MEU earlier in the month.

The grenade and heavy weapons training range was the first event for Kilo Company, said Staff Sgt. Gary D. Patterson, platoon sergeant for Kilo's Weapons Platoon and native of Huntsville, Ala.

"It's really important to get away from Camp Lejeune and come out here so we can concentrate on training with no outside distractions," Patterson said.

The facilities gave the riflemen of Kilo a chance to hone their skills in multiple methods of grenade delivery.

Using practice grenades, which only have a fuse in an empty grenade shell, the Marines trained how to throw grenades over walls, around trees and even through drain culverts.

While Kilo's platoons took turns running through the grenade reaction course, Weapons Platoon was training with their stock in trade, anti-armor rockets.

Using trainer variants of the AT-4 light anti-armor weapon and shoulder-fired multi-purpose anti-armor weapons, or SMAWs, loaded with small-caliber spotting rounds, the Marines practiced employing the rocket launchers against the burned out hulks of rusting trucks.

"It's crucial that the Kilo Marines familiarize themselves with these weapon systems," said Sgt. David Spearing, the Kilo Company police sergeant from Fresno, Calif. "It helps them learn the tools they need in order to be able to work in a combat environment."

The off-site training at Fort Pickett is the crawl phase of the "crawl, walk, run" approach to MEU pre-deployment training.

It gives the experienced Marines of 3/2 a chance to train and mentor the many fresh, young troops that checked into the unit just before they became a part of the 22nd MEU.

"It is very important for them to understand what they could encounter while deployed...this is why we're doing this," said Spearing. "It's much better for them to learn in a safe training environment."

He added that the Marines are very excited to deploy with the 22nd MEU. He said it offers a change of pace from the Iraq deployments many of them have experienced and potentially gives them a chance to get out and see other countries.

Patterson, the Weapons Platoon Sergeant, says the pre-deployment training is the hardest phase of a MEU deployment, but it gives the Marines the tools they need to accomplish the MEU's missions.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit is a scalable, multipurpose force of more than 2,200 Marines and Sailors. Commanded by Col. Gareth F. Brandl, it consists of its Ground Combat Element, BLT 3/2; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element.

The 22nd MEU is currently conducting pre-deployment training and is scheduled to deploy this spring.

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