TWENTYNINE PALMS – With the U.S. in the middle of two wars, the military is striving for new ways to get the upper hand in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More Marines are heading to Twentynine Palms for specialized training before being deployed.
Marines from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina are the first group taking part in a new, month-long training exercise known as Enhanced Mojave Viper.
It’s a program evolved from the original Mojave Viper, which started in 2005, to give Marines a realistic setting of what to expect in Iraq.
“They’re preparing these Marines for their first enemy contact and that is something they have to succeed at,” says Maj. Terence Moroney. “The training we’re trying to accomplish here is full-spectrum warfare.”
Enhanced Mojave Viper includes live-fire exercises using heavy artillery and mock villages with role players speaking in their native languages.
It’s all designed to replicate what Marines will be faced with after they are deployed.
According to Cpl. David Mason, “it’s as close as you can get without a doubt.
“I came through here about three years ago before I went to Iraq and I requested to come back as an instructor ever since, because I believe it was the best training I’d gotten before I went on deployment.”
The Marines say the big advantage with the new exercise is being able to integrate aircraft and infantry, allowing them to communicate and work together in real time.
“If you plan poorly, you’re going to execute poorly,” Maj. Mark Brown says about preparation. “The air guys are flying at 30,000 feet. The guys are walking the ground, chewing on the dirt –the guys are bringing us the bullets and the band-aids. Everybody has got a face to a voice when they’re talking on the radio.”
The Marine base in Twentynine Palms covers 932 square miles and is the only U.S. base that allows such extensive training.
“We get that feedback from commanders and leaders saying ‘I wish we would’ve done this or what you did in Mojave Viper was spot on and you need to continue that'”, said Brown.