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Corporal Andy Nava takes the point during night reconnaissance training. He is with the 3rd Marine Division Combat Assault Battalion Combat Engineer Company 5th Platoon from Camp Schwab in Okinawa. The Combat Engineer Company is currently training at Camp Fuji.

Corporal Andy Nava takes the point during night reconnaissance training. He is with the 3rd Marine Division Combat Assault Battalion Combat Engineer Company 5th Platoon from Camp Schwab in Okinawa. The Combat Engineer Company is currently training at Camp Fuji. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

Under a deep fog in the dark of night Tuesday, a squad of Marines stole across rock and mud in a simulated ambush.

They stopped every few yards to listen for brush cracking under enemy steps and scanned the scene through the eerie green of night-vision goggles.

Minutes later, they spotted the ambush and fired a volley of machine-gun rounds into the blackness.

The exercise at Camp Fuji near Tokyo placed Marines in conditions many of their friends face in real life a continent away.

They say their training prepares them for war. But, they admit, being in Iraq must be intense.

“I’m definitely worried about my friends,” said combat engineer Cpl. Daron Topel, whose battalion is in Iraq. “They’re probably nervous but they’re well-trained. They’ve waited to go for a long time.”

Topel’s with the Combat Assault Battalion from Camp Schwab, Okinawa, now training at Camp Fuji. They just saw action in Afghanistan. They probably won’t go to Iraq but many say they wish they were there.

“Everybody wants to be there, and it’s not just some macho thing,” said Lance Cpl. Joseph Siskey. “They just want to be there because their friends are there.”

The combat engineers also know their training prepares them to help.

“We spend years training on this stuff,” Topel said. “This is our chance to use it. I’ve got a lot of training I could use there.”

Tuesday’s mock ambush might be realistic, but these Marines know there are no certainties in combat.

In battle, “You never know how everything is going to come out,” Siskey said. “We’re lucky here because we know what we’re doing.”

Afghanistan, he said, taught him that human beings react differently under the threat of live fire. “You can’t take out the human factor,” he said.

The news of fellow Marines dying in battle thousands of miles away caused pause for many but the Marines said they are prepared for casualties.

“It’s the power of war,” said machine gunner, Pfc. Lincoln Lyle, at 18 the youngest in the group. “Folks are gonna die.”

Under the cold drizzle wafting off Mount Fuji, some group members also said a tour in Iraq isn’t the worst they could envision.

“I’d rather go there than North Korea,” said Hospitalman Nathan Green, a Navy Corpsman accompanying the combat assault battalion.

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