New York reservists hone their technical skills in Camp Hansen training
Stars and Stripes August 26, 2006
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — There was the heat. And the challenge of passing the Marine Corps’ tough swimming qualifications when you’re a New Yorker who ordinarily lacks either a suitable training facility or a swimming instructor.
And then there was the heat.
Nonetheless, after a visit to Okinawa to fulfill their annual two-week training requirement, 42 reserve Marines from the 6th Communications Battalion returned to New York praising the hands-on work they did to hone technical skills, the Marine Corps history they got to absorb on Okinawa and the time spent with their active-duty brethren at the 7th Communications Battalion here.
And, thanks to a Navy chaplain’s aide doing double duty as a swimming instructor, all 42 reserve Marines got through their swimming qualifications.
Master Sgt. John Kratzer, the company’s operations chief, called the Okinawa visit for the reservists, most of whom are with the battalion’s Service Company, a unique opportunity. Annual training, such as to meet Corps swimming requirements, is difficult sometimes due to the lack of training facilities near the battalion’s home base, Kratzer said.
“It’s hard to find a (pool) facility with the platforms and instructors required to complete swim quals,” he said.
The Marines also were dispersed throughout the 7th Communications Battalion to work in their occupational specialties, said 1st Sgt. Kevin Douglas, also with Service Company.
The reserve Marines provided maintenance support for radio, satellite, telephone, data and other communication equipment. They are technical jobs that require a constant skill refreshing, something else difficult to obtain in New York where they lack the communications equipment, Kratzer said.
But the benefits flowed both ways, said Gunnery Sgt. Alejandro Mendez, a Los Angeles native with the Okinawa battalion. Saying he appreciated the help the Marine reservists provided, he added, “Too bad they can’t stay here for a month or so.”
Lance Cpl. Jamaray Cave, 20, a reserve Marine from Brooklyn, said although he didn’t like the Okinawa heat, the two weeks were an invaluable opportunity to refresh his technical skills.
“I’ve been doing a lot of hands-on stuff,” Cave said. “It’s been a while since I’ve had hands-on experience and I’ve got back up to speed.”
Lance Cpl. Jason Hanna, 22, of Long Island, said he enjoyed seeing the island and the people.
“To be there with so much history of the Corps and to see the past first-hand was great,” Hanna said of a tour of World War II battle areas.
Expanding on the reserve Marines’ usual training stints at Quantico, Va., and Twentynine Palms, Calif., greatly benefits the Corps, Douglas said. Though sending reserve Marines to Okinawa for annual training costs more, he said, the boost in morale and in retention rates makes it more cost-effective: The more Marines who re-enlist, the fewer new recruits who have to be trained.
“Annual training like this might keep some of our Marines in for years,” Douglas said.