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08-15-08, 07:32 AM
Beyond the classroom
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Recon Marines take to the field to test the skills they’ve learned
August 15, 2008 - 12:56AM

The Marines cling to the Zodiac as it speeds along, clutching the sides of the inflatable motorboat with their arms and legs as it bounces over the waves. Suddenly, they spring off the side, holding their noses as they plunge into the water. Minutes later, the boat pulls around and they scramble up out of the water and back into position.

Later, as the boat idles in the ocean, the Marines ease themselves slowly into the water -careful not to make too much of a splash - then swim into shore, where they scout the area for danger.

The maneuvers are part of a weeklong amphibious training exercise, designed to help 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion practice their skills and work together as a unit. About half of the platoon graduated from the reconnaissance training program roughly six months ago, and the exercise was their first chance to train outside a school setting.

The week began without engines, with the Marines practiced flipping the boats, waterproofing their gear and other skills. Later, they added the engines and motored around, practicing maneuvering the boat and navigating the surf. Thursday, they rehearsed modes of insert - including dropping off the boat while it is still moving and slipping in quietly to swim to shore - and reporting conditions from the beach, said 2nd Lt. Samuel Donoghue, the platoon commander.

In a real-life mission, the reconnaissance Marines could potentially be dropped in the water at night, then have to swim stealthily into shore to scope out the terrain and overall situation for the battlefield commander. They may be asked to survey the waves and beach ahead of a large-scale landing, or to make sure a small area is secure for a team to land.

Getting out in the water "lets them learn by doing, rather than sitting in the classroom," said Sgt. Brian Mohr, who has been a reconnaissance Marine for 10 years.

The Marines did learn the skills in school, but it is important they practice them without someone standing over their head so they can learn from their mistakes, Mohr said.

Cpl. Robert Lynxwiler is one of the new Marines with the platoon, and said the training was a welcome refresher and a way to bond with his fellow Marines. The few snags they experienced - such as bad weather Wednesday - were an opportunity to learn, he said.

"We'll adapt to it," he said.

Though reconnaissance Marines in Iraq are doing similar missions as other Marines - mainly patrols and "winning hearts and minds," eventually they will need the amphibious recon skills, Mohr said.

"These skills, they do happen, especially when you're attached to a (Marine Expeditionary Unit)" he said. The training "is part of trying to stay proficient in all aspects of our job - not just the Iraq mission."

Donoghue agreed.

The skills are important to practice, he said, "to knock the cobwebs out," so the Marines are ready for anything.

Contact interactive content editor Jennifer Hlad at 910-219-8467. Visit www.jdnews.com to comment.