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31st MEU

Photo by Sgt. Jeremy M. Vought

Hawaii Marines get ready for Iraq on the “Big Island”

20 Oct 2006 | Sgt. Jeremy M. Vought

Nearly 1000 Hawaii-based Marines will be deployed to Iraq early next year, so with their remaining time in Hawaii, they ready for the future.

All Marines preparing to deploy from Hawaii are limited in the types of training they can conduct on their Oahu home at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, so the Marines of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment airlifted to the Big Island of Hawaii to the Pohakuloa Training Area to continue combat preparations.

According to Capt. Jason Borovies, 1/3 Alpha Company commander, his Marines benefit from the opportunities provided during their training at PTA.
“It’s significant because it’s just way too difficult to do something like that on Oahu with all the restrictions that we have on us and the limited availability of major resources like training areas and ranges.”  

Borovies was also grateful for the condensed training schedule, saying that the battalion is getting all the training possible to be ready, but also giving the men as much time at home with their families.

“Coming up here on the Big Island gives us the opportunity to do everything we need to over a three or four month period in one condensed 10-day block,” said the Alpha Company commander.

Training that is invaluable for his Marines at a time before a deployment, he said.

“It’s absolutely essential,” the 29-year-old said.  “I would say that if we did not come here to PTA there would be a very good chance of us going to Iraq not as fully trained as we need to be to be set up for success.”

The Pohakuloa Training Area is located on the island of Hawaii between Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and the Hualalai Volcanic Mountains on a volcanic plain that extends to elevations from 6,800 to 9,000 feet.  Managed by the Army, it’s the largest DOD installation in Hawaii and according to Marine leaders; it’s exactly what they need to train properly.

“PTA allows us, if you look all around, with all this area that’s open to us to go ahead and train.,” said 2nd Lt. Luke I. Balthazar, platoon commander, combat engineers, Combat Assault Company, 1/3, commenting on the more than 100-thousand acres at the battalion’s disposal.

The Marines of 1/3 recently returned back from Afghanistan and before that they were the main force in the fight for the Fallujah last year, which makes for battle-hardened veterans, who at PTA, are passing down their experiences to younger and newer Marines in the unit.

“The Marines who have been to a combat zone before, learned their little tricks and their little secrets,” explained Lance Cpl. Timothy Lacenski, machine gun squad leader with Alpha Company, 1/3.

The Alpha Company commander added, “We’re very fortunate in this company right now and in this battalion in general, to have so many veterans of Afghanistan, but also of Iraq and Fallujah in particular,” said Borovies.  “The skills and knowledge they have and can impart to our junior Marines, are going to be absolutely essential in ensuring we can accomplish the mission once we get overseas ourselves.”

While at PTA the battalion will be conducting much of the training needed to be ready for Iraq; everything from executing fire and movement, employing light and medium machine guns, convoys, mortars and more importantly, taking care of their fellow Marines.  Besides learning basic tactics, the training is also building a sense of team, according to Borovies. 

“We’re really fortunate that right now this training evolution is the first time for the last several months that we have been able to get the entire ‘team’ in place that will be going to Iraq.  So this is a great opportunity to start building that sense of team, getting guys used to working with each other, developing their own small unit standard operating procedures and the kind of things that will pay huge dividends when we do get to Iraq,” Borovies said.

The Alpha Company commander concluded by saying his Marines recognize the importance of the opportunity they were given at PTA.

“I think the guys are eager to go and do their jobs, but by the same token, they recognize how serious a situation it is and because of that they are taking the training very seriously and I’m confident that the guys are going to be ready to go over there and do their job and bring each other back alive.”

After completing their training on the Big Island in the end of October, they’ll return to Oahu. Shortly after they’ll gear up for a trip to Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., for more training and then off to Iraq for their deployment.

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