VIRGINIA ARMY NATIONAL GUARD INSTALLATION FORT PICKETT, VA. (Feb. 16, 2012) --
Marines with Battery B, 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, are conducting a two-week-long field operation dubbed South Bound Trooper through 26.
The exercise began when the LAAD Marines traveled in three small convoys from Cherry Point to Virginia Army National Guard Installation Fort Pickett, Va., Feb. 14. Once arrived they conducted multiple training exercises, including static firing of the M240B machine gun and live tracking drills with the FIM 92-Stinger Missile System.
“We are being supported in this exercise by several assets that we usually do not have access to,” said Capt. Jonathan M. Trizila, commanding officer of Battery B. “We are able to conduct live tracking drills on Navy F-18 Hornets as well as running drills.”
They also did tracking and on and offloading of Marines with SH-60 Seahawks said Trizila.
It’s worth the trip traveling from the air station to the seclusion of Fort Pickett, added Trizila. Everyone has benefited from these exercises, from the private first class to the commanding officer.
“We are getting a chance to work on an international military level without having to spend much of our own unit’s money,” said Trizila. “With budget cuts it is getting harder to actually conduct field training. I feel if we can conduct two-thirds of our training in a field environment it is better. If most of our training is done in a garrison environment we will begin to see bad habits start to develop. We have to train how we are going to fight.”
The Marines spent the first few days working on refining combat tactics as well as putting rounds down range using their personnel weapon systems.
“We have a lot of junior Marines who just got to the battery in the last few months and this is their first big field exercise,” said Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Torcia, a team leader with Battery B. “For instance, I am a team leader for the first time on this field exercise. I have learned a lot about what it means to take care of Marines who are under my command.”
Torcia said this training is going to better prepare all the Marines for missions that they may use while in a deployed environment.
“We haven’t conducted ground-based-air-defense missions in current operations while deployed because of our current enemy situations,” said Torcia. “We do a lot of convoy security as well as security and infantry details while in country. So this training has helped refresh a lot of these junior Marines on the basics of these different weapon systems we are using.”
The Marines began coalition training with Canadian forces on Feb. 20.
“Our biggest new training we are conducting here is the helicopter operations we will be conducting with the Canadian Armed Forces,” said 1st Sgt. Marcus Martinez, Battery B first sergeant. “Working with the Canadians will bring about a lot of different aspects of the training. We will get to showcase our different strategies as well as get to see theirs, and we might learn something new from it all as well.”
Through the course of the final week of training, the Marines will work with several groups of the 36th Canadian Brigade conducting convoy support, ground-based-air-defense as well as a brief training exercise at W. Va. National Guard Installation Camp Dawson, W. Va.
This is the first story of two chronicling South Bound Trooper.