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Comm Marines get off information highway, onto California roads for convoy training

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 2005524182050
Story by Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevich

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (May 24, 2005) -- Attempting to follow friends or family on the Southern California roads can be a difficult driving experience, often involving wrong turns, separation, frustrated phone calls and perhaps being late to a designated location.

Imagine then, being in a foreign country with all the road signs printed in an unfamiliar language, with an enemy constantly firing weapons at you.

Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, will be faced with that reality, as they are scheduled to return to Iraq later this summer. In preparation for the deployment, the squadron staged convoy operations training May 18-19 on the roads of East Miramar.

"We want to get the Marines some exposure and knowledge as to what conducting a convoy is like," said 1st Lt. Aaron J. Bankson, multi-channel radio platoon commander, Company B, MWCS-38. "They learned how to react quickly, conducting immediate action drills for different scenarios like taking indirect fire, improvised explosive devices or suicide car bombers."

Assisting the Marines in their training were actors and role players with Strategic Operations, part of a local film studio that provides opposing force actors for Marine training evolutions.

"They had role players in the town, drivers in vehicles simulating car bombers," said Bankson. "First Marine Division has been using these guys for a while, but this is the first time for the wing. It was more realistic than any other convoy training done before because the role players put the Marines in an environment that induced stress they are not used to."

Bearing the brunt of that stress were the convoy commanders, in charge of planning and executing the convoy mission. Normally a staff noncommissioned officer or commissioned officer would hold the title, but the squadron's leadership changed the normal procedures by placing corporals in charge of the convoys, according to Bankson.

"We put the corporals in the leadership position so they could get the experience as well as a confidence booster," stated Bankson. "You never know when the lieutenant is going to take it between the running lights, and somebody needs to know how to step up and take charge."

One of the convoy commanders chosen was Cpl. Mark A. Klinger, a radio operator with the squadron.

"I have never been put in that spot before. I felt a lot of pressure, but it was a good learning experience, especially because the actors and props made it seem more realistic - like Iraq," said Klinger. "It was difficult driving, holding my weapon and talking on the radio, particularly when the order to dismount was given."

With the squadron's deployment only a couple months away, the training experience has increased in importance, according to Klinger, a St. Petersburg, Fla., native.

"The training is important for the Marines who don't have the experience of a tour in Iraq - it challenged them mentally, so they can make the right decisions in a short amount of time when we are there," Klinger said. "If they don't react quickly then the mission doesn't get accomplished and we take casualties."


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