CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan -- A fire team of Marines move methodically down a wet gorge, up a slick stone ledge and through a widening valley. Small missteps cause Marines to fall knee deep in mud, but they climb out and continue forward. When the patrol leader yells, “One! Two! Three!” the Marines raise their rifles and the shooting begins.
Marines with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, completed a point man’s reaction course here, Jan. 22 through 24, as part of their pre-deployment training. The unique jungle, mountain and island environments in the Asia-Pacific require the unit to adapt, making additional training necessary.
The Marines’ of Weapons Co. primarily work with the Combined Anti-armor Team and Light Armored Reconnaissance Marines attached to the company, with most patrols being mounted in vehicles. Mounted patrols give the Marines options to use various heavy weapons like machine guns and Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) missiles.
“Due to the type of terrain here on Okinawa, there’s more of an emphasis to conduct patrols while dismounted, which diversifies our skill sets,” said Lance Cpl. Bijan Vaziri, a machine gunner with Weapons Co., BLT 2/5, 31st MEU, and a native of Winston-Salem, N.C.
The training course tested a dozen teams of three to four Marines in the challenging jungle vegetation with more than ten targets concealed in positions at varying heights. The targets were man-shaped, paper silhouettes with balloons tacked to their chest, which burst when the Marines made a direct hit with live ammunition.
“The terrain was the most challenging aspect due to the heavy mud and change of elevation,” said Vaziri. “The brush gave [the targets] concealment and some targets were as high as 30 meters above us, so finding the targets was a little difficult at times.”
Patrolling through the jungle and searching for enemy targets was a new experience for many of the Marines. To help the training along, experienced Marines were on hand to provide guidance.
“Everybody was taking turns being point man during the course, which was a good thing because I have never done it before,” said Cpl. Michael A. Guzman, a radio operator with Weapons Co., BLT 2/5, 31st MEU, and a native of Cathedral City, Calif. “Sometimes when we didn’t spot one, the (officer-in-charge) would start counting, which meant the enemy could see us, so we had to find them and shoot them, or seek cover. The training gave me a good idea of what to do as a point man.”
The point man course was part of a pre-deployment training package to prepare the Marines for the 31st MEU’s regularly scheduled Spring Patrol. The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region and is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.