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thedrifter
04-08-06, 07:52 AM
Lima Company Marines train for Iraq
Saturday, April 08, 2006

By JAMES BROOKS
NET News Service

GRAY - About 60 U.S. Marines are training at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Gray for deployment in Iraq to augment their sister company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, headquartered in Detroit and already in country.

According to Maj. Steve Bickford, instructor-inspector for Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines, about 25 percent of the unit are volunteers for a second deployment to Iraq.

"Our initial deployment in January 2004 took 180 Marines from here, and I'm very proud that men from that duty have stepped up to provide the leadership and experience," Bickford said.

Marines from around the area were already in training Friday morning in operation of Humvee vehicles and learning to stick a vein in a plastic training arm to start an IV under the instruction of Hospitalman 1 Riley Newcomb.

Those clustered around the Humvees were wearing their armored vests, each weighing about 25 pounds without the additional weight of extra loaded clips, canteens and other gear.

"These men have already been through two large training events in February and March, and by the time they depart sometime in June they will have four months of training. While they are here, all gear will be checked, and what they don't have will be ordered and delivered to them at Camp Pendleton and Twenty-nine Palms, California, before they deploy," Bickford said.

When asked about their mission in Iraq, Bickford said the extra Marines will extend their unit's capabilities by providing extra drivers or radio operators, for instance.

"We assume they will be working with the Iraqis," he said. "Many units integrate with or stand in support of Iraqi units, and some are there specifically to train Iraqi forces."

He said they will use armored Humvees when they arrive in Iraq.

Confidence was the operative word in the training area. Cpl. Robert Blevins, Piney Flats, is one of those who volunteered to return to Iraq. He served nine months there in 2004 at Al Asaad.

As a squad leader, Blevins said he feels he can make a difference.

"I enjoy being with Marines," he said. "It's a good experience, and I enjoy the job."

Lance Cpl. Brandon Ward of Greeneville will be 22 before he arrives in Iraq.

"I've got faith in the training we've received," he said. "The Marines always do a good job."

Virtually every Marine in the field is trained in basic emergency medical technician procedures. There is only one Navy corpsman per platoon, and since the Marines normally travel in convoys of at least four to six Humvees, the corpsman initially may be some distance from action, so the basic EMT training has already saved many lives in the field.

Bickford said the Marines will return to Gray early in June for a few days before their deployment. They will be on active duty for approximately one year and will rotate in and out of theater after approximately seven months in conjunction with all other Marine units.

Ellie