JUNE 21, 2016, MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, California – As the heat rose steadily over the course of two-weeks in the vast desert of southern California, so did the proficiency of the Reserve Marines completing their annual ITX training at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California. The Marines attended multiple training scenarios where they sent bullets blazing down range as they combined ground, artillery and air capabilities during the exercise lasting from June13-28, 2016.
Starting the first evolution of training for the Reserve Marines was 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve. They worked through a series of ranges moving from platoon to company level training where they combined all the elements of a Marine Air Ground Task Force in the final exercise.
“The whole exercise is built on a building block approach,” said Col. Michael Samarov, commanding officer of 25th Marines, 4th MARDIV, MARFORRES. “Mechanized assault courses and airborne assault courses, where we add mechanized vehicles, we add tanks, we add artillery and aviation. Those are the culminating events of this exercise, with all of that put together with the battalion headquarters over the top controlling it.”
Building up to the final event, the Marines worked on a series of realistic scenarios including live fire ranges, ground assaults and air support, all located in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. The desert offers rocky, mountainous terrain and soaring temperatures to simulate the challenges and realism of combat.
“The heat is a big factor, you are fighting the elements and getting use to that as much as you are training to a standard,” said Sgt. Maj Glen Bragg, regimental sergeant major, of 25th Marine Regiment. “It teaches Marines that you have to get acclimated and perform under adverse conditions.”
Training through this type of environment in a live-fire situation is essential to ensuring the Marines are prepared to fight in any type of climate against any enemy.
“Combat is the ultimate contact sport, in this sport you don’t have nicely lined fields, you don’t have referees, we are wearing more gear and the opposing team isn’t trying to hit you they are trying to shoot you,” said Samarov. “Being able to be strong and having good power and endurance is extraordinarily important to take on the enemy that can defend a position.”
In addition to working on their abilities to drive out enemy defending a specific position, they were able to take advantage of the unique opportunities the base offers. This allows them to train in areas that they are not able to at their home units.
“In the Marine Corps this is the best training I have ever received, so it is pretty exciting to be able to go back to my team and junior Marines and pass on this knowledge,” Cpl. Oscar Alarcon, fire support man with 5th battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th MARDIV, MARFORRES. “There are all types of missions here that we’re not able to do back at Camp Pendleton, being able to do them here is a pretty big difference in reading how to do something and never doing, opposed to doing it.”
After working through the crawl and walk phases of the training, the Marines moved on to the run. They combined all of their assets together during a two day final exercise consisting of ground maneuver elements, mechanized operations and the use of air assaults. While 1/24 has completed their training during ITX, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th MARDIV, MARFORRES, will be beginning the next evolution of ITX, following the same pattern to perfect their abilities to perform as a MAGTF.
“When these two infantry battalions that are here and all their attachments end this exercise, they will be as close as they possibly can be to their active component forces,” said Samarov. “Everything we do here saves time after activation, so we can get this battalion ready quickly and off to the fight with the active component.”