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01-23-09, 07:46 AM
Reserve unit conducts urban training at Camp Lejeune
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January 22, 2009 - 6:01 PM

The Marine reservists have already been trained on how to conduct foot patrols, vehicle check points, vehicle patrols and "cordon and knock" operations.

Thursday, they applied those skills in a training environment they said is as close to real life as possible.

The Marines of Company B, 4th Amphibious Assault Battalion, traveled to Camp Lejeune from Jacksonville, Fla.; Galveston, Texas; and Tampa, Fla. to train at the base's Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility. The facility is built to mimic a town, with Iraqi role players and small-scale explosives giving the exercise an added touch of reality.

"For most Marines coming through this, it will be their first time. They're going to make mistakes on the basic fundamentals, because ... they see things happening and they forget about the basics: communication, the buddy system. And that's expected," said Staff Sgt. Jason Fitzgerald, who assisted the company by observing the training and pointing out mistakes.

"Communication is the biggest thing," Fitzgerald said. "When you're in a MOUT facility, things are more closed in. It's not gonna be a wooded environment. You're going to be exposed to alleys, what we call danger areas or avenues of approach, windows. A lot more things or a lot of other places that a bad guy or an insurgent can hide in and do damage to your patrol."

The first foot patrol to run through the exercise experienced that "damage" when a mock roadside bomb exploded nearby.

"You don't know what to expect," said Sgt. David Smith, an assistant squad leader. "They just throw pretty much anything out there ... It really helps you out, really opens your eyes to a new situation and different aspects."

Smith has deployed twice before, but served in an amphibious assault vehicle during those tours.

"This infantry aspect is new for me. But I'm learning. I'm learning a lot, actually," he said.

Cpl. Zachary Tyler deployed a few years ago and said the pre-deployment training he had then was not as realistic. This time, he said the Marines got "a taste of what to look for, how it feels, the adrenaline rush, the excitement, the confusion, the fog of war, all that."

Maj. Zeke Zukowski, Bravo Company commander, said the opportunity to train at the MOUT facility was "an amazing advantage."

About half of the Marines have deployed before, he said, but they may end up doing different types of operations this time than they have in the past. The unit is scheduled to leave for a seven-month deployment this spring in support of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Zukowski said.

"My orders are to be ready for anywhere or anything," he said. "I don't have any reservations about how ready this company will be."

Contact interactive content editor Jennifer Hlad at jhlad@freedomenc.com or 910-219-8467.