MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- First Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, arrived at the Combat Center Jan. 4, to train for their upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Like all ground units deploying to Iraq, 1/25, a reserve unit based at Devens Reserve Forces Training Area, Mass., came to the Combat Center to take part in the Mojave Viper training evolution, which facilitates exercise force training in the core competencies of combined arms, urban warfare and intelligence driven operations.
Having spent the greater part of this year training in the California desert, the Marines of 1/25 are more than ready to get to Iraq.
“I don’t know why I’m not there yet,” said Cpl. Brad Blais, a machine gunner with the personal security detachment, before he boarded a bus March 21 to begin the battalion’s deployment. “This is my third time around. I’m ready for it.”
Blais, one of the more experienced members of the battalion, served his first two deployments as a member of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Now as a member of 1/25 his experience will be vital for the battalion, who is directly supporting OIF for the first time.
Many members of the battalion feel they gained a lot of experience and are much more prepared for the deployment, having completed Mojave Viper.
“This was the most training we’ve done at one time,” said Lance Cpl. Shaun Powers, a rifleman with Bravo Company, and an Albany, N.Y., native. It was really good, especially the MOUT [Military Operations on Urban Terrain] town. The last few days of Mojave Viper were the most realistic. I think it was good because it is what we will be experiencing in Iraq.”
While in Iraq the battalion will spend its time in western Iraq’s volatile Al Anbar province. They will be tasked with conducting counter-insurgency patrols, presence patrols and training Iraqi Security Forces, among other things.
“I’m excited to get over there,” said Powers. “It’s been a long time coming. I think we’re all really motivated to get over there to help the Iraqi people, and win hearts and minds.”
Lt. Col. Bob Underwood, an augment to the battalion from Marine Air Group 41 based in Ft. Worth, Texas, said he was impressed with the Marines’ desire and motivation leading up to the deployment.
“These guys came out here motivated from day one,” said Underwood, the forward air controller for Bravo Company. “They always had a learning attitude and they took everything serious, whether it was a lecture or a field exercise. I’m very impressed with the way things went.”
The battalion is scheduled for a seven-month deployment.