CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait --
Marines and sailors with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/5, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently honed crucial infantry skills in the sands of Kuwait.
For the past two months, Weapons Company was embarked aboard USS Peleliu (LHA-5) and USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52), but came ashore to Kuwait in late June to conduct sustainment training, ensuring vital war fighting skills are not lost.
The Kuwait sustainment training package provided Weapons Company, primarily a vehicle mounted unit in humvees and light-armored vehicles, with open desert space for driving and shooting, explained 1st Lt. Matthew Lampert, the Light Armored Vehicle platoon commander.
“Before we got off the ship we started planning. We want to use the desert environment to our advantage by doing a lot of long range shooting and long range driving,” said Lampert, a 28 year-old native of Big Sky, Mont.
One of the main objectives for Weapons Company was to practice their driving skills in the wide-open spaces of Kuwait’s desert.
With the space provided, the Marines were able to maneuver their vehicles in to essential combat formations while also exercising the related tactics, said Sgt. Eduardo Chaidez, Light Armored Vehicle crewman.
“It’s great out here because the terrain and open desert allows us to maneuver freely and set up vehicle formations and to exercise vehicle tactics. While training back in the States you only get a few square kilometers to train in, but out here we can get a few hundred square kilometers to work with,” said Chaidez.
Few places in the United States mirror the conditions and environment of a Middle Eastern desert, added Chaidez.
Back at Camp Pendleton the terrain is very different and is filled with vegetation and hills. At Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. the environment is rocky. However, here the desert is exactly how one might expect it to be, said Chaidez, a 29 year-old native of Sylmar, Calif.
A second key advantage to training in Kuwait’s vast spaces is the flexibility to conduct training that is normally not permitted at Camp Pendleton. Of the skills practiced, the Marines were able to shoot using a simulated street curb as cover and shooting while lying on their backs. This type of flexibility added a lot of value to the training the Marines were getting, explained Sgt. Mike E. Ray, a section leader with Combined Anti-Armor Team 1
“Being out here, we had a lot of flexibility for what we could do with the Marines. We were able to do things like shoot using a simulated street curb for cover and shooting lying directly on our backs, which is typically something we can’t do back in the States,” said Ray.
Non-commissioned officers, like Ray, played a key part in supervising and mentoring the younger Marines.
“It’s nice to get here and build our own training packages that can hone skills to the specifications we feel are important. We’re able to build the course of fire from the ground up and tailor make the training based on our needs. This allows us to identify weaknesses and deficiencies and build courses to help correct them.”
Because there are fewer units training in Kuwait than in the United States, Weapons Company has more time to remediate shortcomings rather than rush off the range to make way for another unit, said Ray.
Furthermore, while training in Kuwait the company is completely submerged in the Arabic culture.
“It’s great to get these younger Marines out here to see camels, actual Arabic writing and people who live in the Middle East,” added Ray.
For the younger Marines who have never deployed, the realism of training in Kuwait helps build their combat mindset.
In addition to training in a country that shares a boarder with Iraq, younger Marines, like Pfc. Jason Xiang, a LAV scout with Weapons Company, are enduring the harsh desert conditions of the Middle East for the first time and learning that surprise sand storms and temperatures in excess of 120F are normal in this region of the world. However, this all adds to the new confidence the younger Marines carry with them
“I can’t get over how hot it is, but I feel that if I were called to Iraq in the future, I’d feel a lot more comfortable going because I’ve spent time in the Middle East and feel that I know more of what to expect,” said Xaing, a 19 year-old native of San Francisco.
The Camp Pendleton, Calif. based 15th MEU is comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and Sailors and is a forward deployed force of readiness capable of conducting numerous operations, such as Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations, Humanitarian Assistance Operations and a wide range of amphibious missions.. The 15th MEU is currently conducting sustainment training in Kuwait.