USS RUSHMORE, At Sea --
It’s a muggy humid morning and Marines with 4th Platoon, Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, stand on the flight deck in a stacked formation ready to rehearse room clearing techniques.
“Alright gent’s let’s run it again,” said Sgt. Chad Skaggs to his platoon.
Without hesitation the Marines burst into action. They move through simulated rooms shouting “Clear!” Every move is swift and calculated. Everyone in the fire team aware of each other’s movements, almost as if it were a ballet, and soon the rehearsal is over.
On a daily basis Marines with BLT 3/1, 15th MEU, work tirelessly to stay combat ready while deployed on Western Pacific Deployment 15-1 aboard the USS Rushmore (LSD 47).
Prior to deploying, Marines with BLT 3/1, 15th MEU, underwent an extensive training period to prepare them for military operations in mountainous terrain, urban terrain, as well as amphibious operations, noncombatant evacuations, and humanitarian assistance.
“We’ve spent the past couple of months training and working our guys up to meet the standards the MEU commander has set,” said Gunnery Sgt. Arthur Abrego Jr., a company gunnery sergeant with Kilo Company, BLT 3/1, 15th MEU. “The goal now is to maintain that readiness so we can carry out anything that is asked of us.”
The Marines’ training consists of combat lifesaving skills, Marine Corps Martial Arts, military operations in urban terrain, and physical fitness, as well as small-unit tactics.
Kilo Company’s squad leaders make sure their Marines know their craft and maintain a state of readiness.
“One of the differences between a MEU deployment and a combat deployment is that you’re not sure what you’re going to be asked to do, so making sure your Marines are ready for that is essential to being successful,” said Sgt. Paul A. Luna, a squad leader with Kilo Co., BLT 3/1.
“That can be kind of tricky when you’re confined to a ship. The threat of Marines becoming complacent is there, so as a squad leader you have to get creative with your training, and constantly reinforce a combat mindset to your Marines.”
Doing what Marines are known to do best - improvising, adapting and overcoming - they make the most of the limited space available aboard the USS Rushmore. With the help of engineer tape, the layout of a house quickly appears on the deck.
“These are all tricks you pick up over time,” said Staff Sgt. David Long, a platoon sergeant with Kilo Co. “Training isn’t limited just because you’re in a confined area. You just adjust; you find a way to make it work. Right now our guys are getting the same training we would be getting if we were in the field back at [Camp Pendleton].
In addition to maintaining a state of combat readiness, Marines are also developing their professional growth by completing career progression courses, and reading selections from the Commandant’s Reading List.
Sergeant Chad Skaggs, a squad leader with Kilo Co., requires his Marines to read a book, of their choosing from the reading list, and write a report on knowledge learned.
“Sgt. Skaggs doesn’t want doers, he want’s thinkers” said Cpl. Ryan Reardon, a team leader with Kilo Co.. “Examples of everything he teaches us are in the books we read. We get to see how they’ve actually been used in combat and that translates to us making better decisions on the battlefield.”
These Marines fill their days reinforcing their infantry tactics by rehearsing as squads on the flight deck, or in the classroom expanding their professional growth. To ensure this, squad leaders submit training schedules to their platoon sergeants who verify every minute of working hours are scheduled with training and education exercises.
“It really does fall on the squad leader to make sure our guys our ready,” said Long. “These are the ones putting in the man hours to make sure they don’t become complacent. It’s a huge responsibility, but our guys handle it with ease, because they know what they’re doing.”
While none can say what will be asked of these Marines; one thing is certain, they will be ready when they get the call because their squad leaders have put in the man hours to ensure their readiness.
“My job’s not to know where we’re going next,” said Luna. “My job’s to make sure we’re ready when we get there.”