MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- History was made aboard the Combat Center when pre-deployment exercises were taken outside the base gates onto the streets of the city of Twentynine Palms.Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., led the training, which took place June 22-24. The battalion visited the base for a 30-day training exercise, dubbed MOJAVE VIPER. The approximately 1,000 Marines and Sailors are in the process of preparing for their upcoming deployment in support of II Marine Expeditionary Force in late August to partake in Operation Iraqi Freedom 3 in Al Anbar province. This deployment will be the battalion’s first deployment to Iraq. They deployed to the eastern part of Afghanistan last May in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and returned in December. Because of that deployment, approximately 60 percent of the battalion are combat veterans. "This training is mostly for the new joins", said Staff Sgt. Reynaldo Garcia, platoon sergeant, H&S Company. "Those that have been in combat already know what to expect; however, this hones their skills."The 10-vehicle convoys began at Camp Wilson then moved through the city of Twentynine Palms via back roads creating a realistic training environment. Many community residents got a chance to see the Marines in action as they patrolled through front yards and streets. "As part of a training exercise, Marines in a simulated convoy practiced being on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary," said Capt. Chris P. O’Connor, operations officer. No more than seven minutes into the training, vehicle five encountered the convoy’s first problem."Vehicle five, we’ve just struck an [improvised explosive device]," announced Lance Cpl. Derrick Downs, mortarman, H&S Company, as he held the radio close to his ear. "No casualties. Dismount."During the four-hour training, Marines and Sailors, armed with their unloaded rifles reacted to IEDs, car bombs, armed insurgents, mortar attacks, air strikes and casualty evacuations—dangerous scenarios they may encounter in Iraq."We based the training off of other units who have deployed to Iraq," said O’Connor. "We gathered their feedback and created scenarios based on their comments."Every aspect of training revolved around combat-convoy operations and included simulated live-fire with multiple weapons systems, communications and navigation training, tactical vehicle employment, immediate action drills and troop-leading procedures.Both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters flew above the city in support of the convoy. AV-8B Harriers, F/A-18D Hornets and unmanned aerial vehicles escorted the convoy at 10,000 feet. CH-46E Sea Knights, UH-1N Hueys and AH-1W Supercobras operated 500 feet above the convoy and assisted Marines and corpsmen during medical evacuations. Immediately following the exercise the company gathered by their vehicles to receive feedback from their leaders."This training is very realistic," said O’Connor to the Marines during the brief after the exercise. "It will enhance the abilities of Marines before deploying to the battlefield. You Marines did a great job. Things ran smooth, you reacted well, and I know we’re ready for this deployment." Charlie Smith, a Twentynine Palms resident, held a sign that read "Proud of you" high in the air as the Marines passed by in the convoy."I’ve been here all three days during their exercise," said Smith. "This is a groundbreaking endeavor for the city and for the base as well. As residents I feel we should help our troops any way we can. In doing that it may secure their ticket home from Iraq."