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FAST Company Marines get ready to storm through a shoothouse door at Hohenfels' "The Box" training area on Thursday.

FAST Company Marines get ready to storm through a shoothouse door at Hohenfels' "The Box" training area on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

FAST Company Marines get ready to storm through a shoothouse door at Hohenfels' "The Box" training area on Thursday.

FAST Company Marines get ready to storm through a shoothouse door at Hohenfels' "The Box" training area on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

A FAST Company Marine prepares to clear a building at Hohenfels' "The Box" training area on Thursday.

A FAST Company Marine prepares to clear a building at Hohenfels' "The Box" training area on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

FAST Company Marines train at Hohenfels’ “The Box” training area on Thursday. The Marines, from Rota, Spain, are in Germany for a month's worth of training.

FAST Company Marines train at Hohenfels’ “The Box” training area on Thursday. The Marines, from Rota, Spain, are in Germany for a month's worth of training. (Seth Robson / S&S)

HOHENFELS, Germany — Marines from Rota, Spain, have traded warm beaches and palm trees for the snow and ice of a Bavarian winter during training to prepare them for downrange missions.

Some 57 Marines from 5th Platoon, 2nd Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) Company are at Hohenfels’ Joint Multinational Readiness Center this month honing urban-combat skills, according to Army Capt. Daniel Enslen, a training center observer controller.

“It (training Marines) is not a normal thing for us,” he said. “We usually train Army and quite a bit of NATO here, but it is a rare occasion for Marines to come through.”

On Thursday, small teams of Marines practiced clearing a building in “The Box” training area at Hohenfels, gunning down targets inside a live-fire shoot house.

“It simulates a facility, which has been taken over (by the enemy) and they have to recapture the building. They have to go in and eliminate the hostile personnel in there and bring out the non-hostiles,” Enslen explained.

The FAST Company commander, Capt. Rudy Salcido, 33, of Tucson, Ariz., said his unit’s main job is to reinforce overseas Navy bases and embassies threat levels escalate.

Training with the Army in Germany allows the Marines to focus on the house-to-house fight in Iraq or Afghanistan, he said.

“The mean age of my Marines is 18 to 19 years old, and most of them are at their first duty station. We know these Marines are going to head to Afghanistan or Iraq. We want to make sure they are prepared,” Salcido said.

The change in climate gives Salcido, who has deployed twice to Iraq, a chance to see how his Marines react to a different environment, he said.

It’s also a chance to learn lessons from the Army trainers, most of whom are veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan or both, he added.

One of the FAST Company Marines, Cpl. Ryan Merkel, 21, of Dubois, Ind., said urban combat training at Hohenfels is similar to what the unit does back in Spain, but the weather is a big change.

“It’s a good change of pace. We’re used to training in hot weather. It’s good to be here training in the cold and ice,” Merkel said.

Another FAST Company Marine, Lance Cpl. Andrew McGary, 20, of Muncy, Pa., said winter temperatures in Rota are in the 60s or 70s and soldiers are surrounded by palm trees when they train. The frozen landscapes of Bavaria reminded him of the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” he said.

Staff Sgt. Kejuan Hull, 32, of Atlanta, said the FAST Company was formed in October from Marine security platoons based in Rota. Marines assigned to the FAST Company will serve six-month deployments to Rota that will include training at Grafenwöhr and Hohenfels.

“We try to use the live-fire shoothouses and convoy lane here because we don’t have that capability in Rota,” Hull said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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