NEW ORLEANS --
More than 130 Marines from 32 different Reserve training centers came together at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. last month to get to know each other and prepare to face the unique challenges presented by operating independently in Africa.
“It’s very unlike anything the Marines have gone through for either an Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom preparation,” said Lt. Col. Daniel P. Whisnant, a Kalamaoo, Mich. native and the commanding officer of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13.2. “The skill set and broad range of expectations of the Marines is very diverse.”
The first training event the Marines encountered together took place at the Tier 1 Group Training Facility in Crawfordsville, Ark., Oct. 4-25. Marines learned essential methods for training foreign militaries on marksmanship and how to set up, and conduct firing ranges to prepare them for their mission of advising, coaching and mentoring partner nation forces as part of a security cooperation team.
“The training we’re doing with the Marines here is ‘train the trainer,’” said Raj Chowdhuri, an instructor with Tier 1 Group. “It’s a formal course on how to be an instructor, how to make ranges happen and duties and responsibilities of all the personnel on the range.”
According to Whisnant, this type of training is important to the Special-Purpose MAGTF because their ability to train a partner-nation force, as an individually-operating security cooperation team will be key.
“We’re going to be the only Marines there, and we’ll be in charge of training the local nationals. We won’t have support from instructors so we need intensive ‘Train the Trainer’ classes so that we’re able to run ranges,” said Sgt. Michael Wong, a team leader with Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13.2. “There’s stuff you don’t normally think about as a Marine going to a range. They’ve been teaching us to think about the little things.”
During the tactical combat casualty care portion of the training, Marines learned how to rapidly apply medical care in stressful situations, such as receiving enemy fire.
“We teach TCCC in the Navy. It was a great refresher for myself,” said Chief Petty Officer Mark Chesney, an independent duty corpsman with Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13.2. Chesney went on to add that the participants did an excellent job running through scenarios using Marines and sailors as simulated wounded. “The Marines came in, did their job, got their patients out of fire, dressed the wounds, simulated needle decompression and continued on. I was very impressed [with] how the Marines conducted themselves.”
Throughout their movements in Africa, the Marines will primarily rely on civilian vehicles for transportation within individual nations, so as part of their pre-deployment training, they learned advanced driving techniques.
“We got our vehicles stuck [on the off-road course] on purpose and they taught us different ways to get it unstuck by using ropes, chains and winches,” said Chesney. “This can prove to be very effective in-country if we get stuck in hostile areas.”
Concurrent with this training, the commander’s staff from 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment out of Garden City, N.Y. was activated to do training of their own.
“A battalion staff was activated from 2/25,” said Whisnant, also the commanding officer of 2nd Bn. 25th Marines. “This is critical for these types of deployments, it gives a foundational piece to the Special-Purpose MAGTF and allows us to quickly ramp up and join those Marines from the 32 home training centers.”
Whisnant sent his staff noncommissioned officers and special-staff officers to a two-week crisis management operations planner’s course at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune where they took a close look at the Marine Corps planning process through a CMO lens. Aside from time spent in the classroom, the battalion element conducted practical application on a live scenario which allowed them to develop their own standard operating procedures and planning processes.
Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13.2 is currently training with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit who is providing them with significant logistical support.
“The amount of support we have received from the 22nd MEU has been phenomenal and we wouldn’t be where we are without them,” said Whisnant.
Marines of Special-Purpose MAGTF are projected to deploy in January to Africa where they can be in as many as a half-dozen to a dozen countries at once. They are expected to return home after seven months of deployment.