Marines in California practice raids ahead of summer deployment
By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | The Orange County Register | Published: February 1, 2018
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — For Pfc. Nicholas Martinov, it was his first taste of what real combat might be like.
The 6-foot-4 Marine from Thousand Oaks squeezed inside a cramped assault amphibious vehicle with others from his squad.
In the mock scenario, the armored vehicles stormed onto land from the sea as the Marines made their way to raid a fictional village occupied by an unknown enemy.
Martinov, 21, rushed from the vehicle to provide security as others attacked the village. Once cleared, he and his squad pushed on, taking a building and dodging possible improvised explosive devices and machine-gun fire. They worked through rooms, setting up secure perimeters and eliminating threats.
Adding realism, Marines were selected to become critically injured – forcing their squad members to make quick, lifesaving decisions.
Armored vehicles, Osprey aircraft and helicopters maneuvered around the Marines.
“This is this company’s first mechanized raid" said Maj. Ryan Hunt, who led Wednesday’s exercise. "It’s baby steps in terms of more complex missions they will be doing going forward.”
The exercise, held in rough, hilly terrain alongside the I-5 freeway, was the first of dozens of training exercises for Marines and sailors from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit in preparation for a seven-month deployment this summer.
“The key is the individual Marine’s actions to adapt to the situation on the ground,” said Capt. Diann Rosenfeld, a communications strategy officer. “It’s what we call the fog of war. You can plan, but when the bombs are actually dropping, or a vehicle goes down, or a buddy gets shot, you have to adapt. The more reps you do, the better you become because you’ve seen it before.”
When it departs, the 13th MEU will travel through the Pacific aboard Navy ships, providing security and training with U.S. partner nations.
The F-35B Lightning II will also deploy with the unit for the first time. Military officials say this joint-strike fighter provides the unit with radar-evading, stealth, supersonic-speed fighter agility combined with the most powerful and comprehensive sensors of any fighter aircraft in history.
The 13th MEU will replace the 15th MEU, returning aboard ships this week from a seven-month deployment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Wednesday’s training was the first time the 13th MEU worked as a unit including infantry, assault amphibious vehicles, artillery, tanks and combat engineers.
For 1st Lt. Alex Gundy, the training was successful. The 26-year-old Marine from Lake Forest commanded two squads and was happy with their results.
Gundy, who has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Cal Poly Pomona, said he is excited for his first deployment.
“I only care that the Marines are taken care of and well-trained,” he said, “so we can accomplish the mission without too many problems on the back-end.”
For Martinov, Wednesday’s training was eye-opening and showed him the importance of relying on his fellow Marines.
“We go through all this planning," he said. "To see it all fall into place is amazing.”