Young leaders share wealth; Pass knowledge from OIF, Develop relationships with German counterparts

13 Dec 2003 | Cpl. G. Lane Miley

Nearly 30 fleet antiterrorism security team Marines from Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, whose daily routine consists of providing security for the camp, took a break Dec. 9-11 to conduct a bilateral training exercise with their German counterparts.

During the three-day evolution, the Task Force Betio Marines and military policemen from the 151st Feldjager Battalion trained each other their respective weapons systems. They were then tested according to Marine Corps and German standards on Range CT-5 here.

On the first day, each group gave classes on their individual weapons. The India Company Marines from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, gave instruction on the M9 9 mm Service Pistol and the M16-A4 Service Rifle before transitioning from teacher to student. The Germans then taught proper employment of their weapons, the P8 9 mm Service Pistol and the G-36 Service Rifle. They also showed the Marines how to use the MP-5 9 mm Machine Pistol. After the instruction, the Coalition Force members received hands on familiarization and prepared for the next day's activities.

As the sun rose over the Djiboutian range Dec. 10, the Marines once again took the leadership role.

The Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based warriors first emplaced the pistol targets. Then, Marine Capt. H. Ripley Rawlings, FAST liaison officer, AT-task force executive officer and range safety officer, gave the group their range safety brief in both German and English.

"We try to get the detachments working together and do as much training as possible," the Boulder, Colo., native explained. "It establishes a trust network, develops relationships and builds lines of communication."

Developing those lines of communication can be difficult however, when there is also a language barrier.

Though this barrier seemed not to faze some of the Marines, like Lance Cpl. Hans J. Baierlipp, who studied German in high school. The infantrymen who found their instruction was deterred by the difference in tongue resorted to hand signals - a skill they utilized while deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"Overcoming the language barrier will make these Marines better leaders," Rawlings said.

A lesson also learned while in Iraq was Marine Cpl. Steven E. Irvin's "quarter trick."

"You almost have to use a visual aid," the Tullahoma, Tenn., native illustrated as he placed a quarter on the rounded barrel of the M9.

He steadied the coin and then instructed the German soldier to slowly squeeze the pistol's trigger. By not anticipating the hammer's fall or jerking the trigger, the shooter can develop a tight shot group, explained Irvin, a military policeman assigned to the task force.

By sharing knowledge gained on other deployments, the Marines quickly ensured the German's preparedness for the challenge at hand. The group took a break for lunch after completing the pistol course, set up targets for the rifle and continued the bilateral exercise - a welcome break to their daily schedule.

"This is a great way to sustain the Marines' motivation," said Marine Sgt. Johnathon E. Bates.

The Jacksonville, Fla., native said the Marines' posts often become stagnant, but this training helps to break up the monotony.

The range put some of Task Force Betio's most junior ranking Marines in leadership roles with some of the German force's senior leaders, but this did not hinder the teaching process.

Marine Pvt. Neil W. Wilson, a Nashville, Tenn., native said he enjoyed the change of pace as he passed on his knowledge to German Sgt. Konrad Heinzig.

"This is a good chance to learn about the Marines' weapons, how Americans think and how they work," Heinzig said. "We are also learning their 'one shot, one kill' mindset."

Overall the course has been good for motivation Heinzig added.

The Germans conducted the Marines' course of fire at the 200, 300 and 400 yard lines. The Marines normally qualify at the 500 yard line, however CT-5 is not that large. After completing the fields of fire, the two groups went their separate ways until the next morning when the Marines would test their mettle on the German weapons and course of fire.

The Marines eagerly sighted in with the German P8 on the final morning of the exercise. Each shooter was given five rounds for the first stage of fire where he would be required to alternate between three targets from 20 meters away. They then received six additional rounds and were required to shoot on two targets alternating between each one in the standing, kneeling and prone shooting positions.

Wilson said he enjoyed learning how to use the weapons of not only a different service, but also another country.

"Being able to work alongside someone from other countries is important," added Wilson, a squad automatic weapon gunner.

After completing the pistol course, the Marines stepped back to the 200 yard line where the rifle course began. Each Marine got familiarized with the G-36 and conducted the German course on the range safety officer's command.

They first shot two rounds prone from the 200, using either of the weapon's sighting systems - the scope, which is accurate up to 800 meters or the sight with "red dot" technology - as opposed to the M16's iron sights.

"This training is very good," said German Master Sgt. Robert Widmann, range safety officer for the final day's evolution. "It helps build good cooperation between the two services. Plus, it makes sense for us to train on each others weapons."

The two services currently have plans for an awards ceremony at the German's encampment Dec. 20, where they will exchange shooting awards. The Marines will present each shooter with either the marksman, sharpshooter or expert pistol and rifle badges according to the German shooter's scores. The Germans will present a bronze, silver or gold fourragé to the Marine shooters depending on their marksmanship abilities.
Headquarters Marine Corps