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CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Capt. Phoebe D. Riner, the staff judge advocate with the Command Element, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, explains the rules of engagement to Marines and sailors during General Exercise 2 at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 29, 2017. The Marines simulated a noncombatant evacuation operation in order to prepare for crisis response situations they could face during their deployment to Central America. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ian Leones)

Photo by Sgt. Ian Leones

Taking it to the next level: Marines with SPMAGTF-SC continue to develop their skills

4 May 2017 | Cpl. Melissa Martens II Marine Expeditionary Force

Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command conducted their second general exercise as part of their pre-deployment training program at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 24 to May 5.

Earlier this month, the Marines participated in General Exercise I, where they began developing essential skills needed for their upcoming deployment to Central America. GENEX II built off those skills by further applying them throughout the day-to-day training and brought all elements of the MAGTF together for the first time.

“GENEX II is the first time we had our Air Combat Element, Logistics Combat Element, Ground Combat Element and Command Element working together,” said Capt. William J. Ryan, the assistant operations officer with the CE, SPMAGTF-SC. “It’s about a week and a half-long evolution where the CE worked with command and control, the ACE provided aerial support for our mission, the GCE learned how to teach classes to foreign nationals through the Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, and the LCE continued building projects with vertical and horizontal construction.”

The specific training that each element conducted at multiple training sites was designed to mirror the Marines’ scheduled activities while deployed to Central America. Gaining familiarity and experience with the equipment and developing different skillsets during the PTP ensures each element will be prepared for their mission throughout the deployment.

“We want to make a positive impact on the communities in Central America by building them different structures, like schools and training facilities,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan D. Abbott, a platoon sergeant with the LCE, SPMAGTF-SC. “The training here is hands-on, so it’s giving the Marines experience which will help them become more efficient and produce a better product.”

Understanding and adapting to all aspects of the operating area while deployed is essential to the Marines’ success in accomplishing their mission. The LCE took full advantage of the training evolution to understand and become proficient in the various partner-nation directed infrastructure improvement projects they will be conducting.

“For the past ten to fifteen years we have typically been doing wood construction in our areas of operation overseas,” said Sgt. Brandon Fender, a site foreman with the LCE, SPMAGTF-SC. “The primary source of building in the areas we will be operating in for this deployment is concrete block and masonry due to the wet climate. Because we have less experience with that, we are trying to get as much training as we can out here.”

The ability to rapidly respond to a humanitarian crisis remains a top priority of SPMAGTF-SC. GENEX II provided the forward command element and the evacuation control center team the opportunity to rehearse and develop their actions for response from start to finish through an intense simulated scenario.

“We are working all of our elements, to include the military transition team to provide security, with this training,” Ryan said. “We are trying to replicate what we could actually see with a crisis response as accurately as possible. It’s the first time we are doing it with all our elements in a live scenario, so I think it is invaluable to our progress as a unit.”

Through the use of role players and a simulated urban town, the Marines were able to execute the actions they would be expected to perform in an actual crisis, to include setting up communications, conducting deliberate searches and providing evacuees with basic medical treatment.

“This was a great experience because it’s a situation we could find ourselves in on the deployment,” said Cpl. Kyler Barrett, a landing support specialist with the LCE, SPMAGTF-SC. “We need to be able to get in and set up as quickly as possible in the disaster zone, so the repetition of these drills will help us beat the element of time.”

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