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U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

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2000 Opelousas Ave., New Orleans, LA 70114
Reserve Recon Marines Train in Dominican Republic;

By Staff Sgt. Sam Kille, MARFOR UNITAS PAO | | August 12, 2002

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC -- Three Zodiac boats zip toward shore at Punta Calderas. As they come within a few hundred meters, Marines--rifles in hand, fins on
their feet--splash into the water.Exercising as much stealth as possible, they slowly make their way to the beach, noting everything about their surroundings.

The information gathered by these reconnaissance Marines, currently deployed
aboard the USS Portland (LSD-37) in support of UNITAS 43-02, is crucial to the success of any amphibious training exercises to come.

"We are the eyes and ears of the infantry," said Cpl. Nate Lindelow, a reserve recon Marine who is taking a break from his studies at the University of Alaska to deploy with Marine Force UNITAS. "We let them know what to expect when they go in."

According to Sgt. Russ Gordon, a team leader with Recon Detachment, the information they provide back to the Marines aboard ship is varied. They measure water depths. They search for obstacles such as reefs, which could tear up amphibious assault vehicles transporting troops. On the beach, they
survey the area to determine the feasibility of landing troops.

"A map may say one thing, but it may look a lot different when you are really there," said Gordon, who left behind a job as the manager of a fishery in Yakutat, Alaska, for the float.

Once the reconnaissance of the beach is made, the Marines then go inland to seek out enemy defensive positions.

"We don't want to roll the AAVs into a hornet's nest when they hit the beach," said Gordon.

While deployed to Latin America, the recon Marines-all of whom are reserves-will conduct several training exercise such as the one here. Because they don't normally deploy like this, the value of the training is immense.

"Every new country brings us a new opportunity," said Gordon. "Being reserves, we usually train at the same places, doing the same old things. Down here, every beach means a different reef, a different obstacle. Plus, there is only so much training you can do during a weekend drill. Here, we are getting to work every asset and we're learning something new everyday--whether we realize it or not."

Because UNITAS is a multi-national maritime exercise, it will also be a chance for the reserve Marines to cross-train with their foreign counterparts.

"This float is going to be a perfect opportunity for us to learn a lot," said Lance Cpl. Damon Kroes, who is a sophomore at San Diego State University. "It's a whole other world here, and I really think the things we pick up from other militaries will be a benefit to all."

It will also be a chance, added Lindelow, to broaden multi-national cooperation and understanding with our Latin American neighbors.

To date, the deployment has been a success for the Recon Marines.

"My Marines have done extremely well so far, very impressive," said Capt. Chris Kiernan, commander of the Recon Det., and an installation and repair manager for Southwestern Bell Telephone in San Antonio, Texas. "Based on their performance, I have no concerns about them doing well in future
exercises; if anything, they will only get better."

During their deployment, the Marines will train in several countries, including Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. They are scheduled to return to Camp Lejeune, N.C., in December.