MARINE AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, California --
Early mornings and late nights have been a common trend for the Marines who make up the personal security detail for 4th Marine Regiment, the command element for Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Four. They have endured seemingly endless hours of training across the broad terrain in California, but their success has proven it was worth it.
Marines with Headquarters Company, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force have been training in convoy procedures, improvised explosive device identification and immediate action drills for casualties and other potential combat scenarios since early January at Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California.
“The jump is a very unique element that the colonel has at his disposal to move around the battlefield,” said Staff Sgt. Absalon A. Cabrera, an infantry unit leader, and the jump commander for 4th Marines.
The colonel employed his jump team during the two, battalion assault courses February 9-13. This allowed him to move across the battle space to command and control the battle closer to the fight.
“We mount up big weapons in armored vehicles and transport him to wherever he needs to go,” said Lance Cpl. Bradley W. Walsh, a rifleman, and also the assistant convoy commander.
During the battalion assault course the jump team delivered the colonel to a landing zone to be picked up by a UH-1Y Venom helicopter to command the fight from the sky.
“The first time we were able to train together was the first day we stepped on deck here in early January,” said Cabrera, a Los Angeles, California, native. “We didn’t have the opportunity to work together before we got here. Now, from all the training these Marines have gone through from spotting (improvised explosive devices), cordoning IEDs, moving in a convoy, taking contact and suppressing the enemy, maneuvering around the enemy, and dealing with downed vehicles and (medical evacuations), I am very proud to say that I am the first Marine to lead the jump for 4th Marine Regiment and Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Four.”
The jump is made up of Marines from different military occupational specialties, according to Cabrera.
“It’s a very good feeling to be the jump commander as a staff sergeant, but to be able to train Marines from different MOS’s like intelligence, communication, infantry and motor transport along with other 4th Marine attachments, (has been very rewarding)” said Cabrera. “We didn’t have the opportunity to prepare ourselves for this, we had to adapt and overcome to make things happen. With the group of Marines I have, we have been able to do that, we adapted to what we had, we worked long hours and at the end we came in for the big win.”
The jump team worked with Tactical Training Exercise Control Group for the first weeks of ITX 2-15 to be evaluated by the “Coyotes”, who provide constructive criticism as well as add friction to training. This tested the Marines to their full capabilities, according to Walsh, a Granville, Ohio, native.
“After talking to some of the Coyotes, they rated us average and that was after only working together for less than three weeks,” said Cabrera. “It’s a very great feeling to hear that.”
TTECG and the Coyotes are notorious for being harsh critics and are hard to please, according to Walsh.
“It’s not me, it’s the Marines,” said Cabrera. “All I do is give them guidance and train them to the experiences that I have, but it’s up to the individual Marine. I believe that Marines are still doing what we are meant to do, and that’s to always be a force in readiness, regardless of the mission that comes our way.”
Cabrera spoke highly of Walsh, who has never dealt with any of this type of training. Walsh went straight from the School of Infantry to Okinawa, Japan, to work in a company office, but has been able to operate as the assistant convoy commander.
“It’s awesome to get all that responsibility thrown on you,” said Walsh. “They’re longer days and a lot of work, but it’s cool to get out there and learn different aspects of my MOS. I’m also learning different aspects of intelligence, communication and other MOS’s, it’s really great.”
While holding the assistant convoy commander billet, Walsh has to lead his peers, and a lot of them are the same rank as him.
“When it comes to leading other junior Marines you just take it in stride and do your best,” said Walsh. “You’re going to mess up and your guys are going to mess up sometimes, you just have to learn to roll with the punches and help them improve and in turn, they will help you improve.”
This ITX is different than the others because of who is involved, according to Cabrera.
“One of the special things about this ITX is that 4th Marines have never been to an ITX, Mojave Viper, Enhanced Mojave Viper or Combined Arms Exercise,” said Cabrera.
4th Marines had the first opportunity in multiple decades to train with a unit that is organic to the regiment. Headquarters Company, 4th Marines is the only organic unit on Okinawa, Japan, because the other units from around the United States cycle through a unit deployment program every six months.
“It’s a really unique experience for our unit to be over here to show the Marine Corps what we can really do,” said Walsh.
1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary was one of the original battalions assigned to 4th Marines and they are scheduled to return to 4th Marines for a six month UDP in the summer of 2015.
“When we get back to Okinawa, we’re not going to be doing this kind of thing, but it’s great to be out here in the field and put everything together with each other as Marines,” said Walsh. “We’ve been very successful out here.”