Story by Cpl Melissa Martens on 04/20/2017Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command put their skills to the test as they conducted their first general exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 10-13, 2017.
The exercise was designed to train Marines with the Logistics Combat Element and Command Element to operate in a field environment in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Central America.
As the first major exercise of the pre-deployment training program, the goal was to further develop the Marines' skills and build an understanding on how to operate efficiently together away from the familiarity of home.
"This is the first time we have conducted different training, such as setting up the command operations center and operating on various pieces of equipment together as an element," said Sgt. Ronnie Hernandez, the training noncommissioned officer with SPMAGTF-SC. "We come from different units and different job specialties, so this is a great opportunity for us to see where we work well together and where there needs to be improvement."
Each element focused training on possible scenarios they will encounter while deployed. Since the ability to respond rapidly to a humanitarian crisis is a top priority of SPMAGTF-SC, the Logistics Combat Element used this exercise as an opportunity to enhance their engineering skills so they will be prepared to assist partner nations with various infrastructure improvement projects and respond in the event of a natural disaster.
"The LCE's training is focused on humanitarian efforts like building schools and facilities for the local populace in Central America," said Capt. Jarrod D. Deitrich, the LCE engineer officer in charge with SPMAGTF-SC. "You're not only having the local human-to-human interaction, but also seeing the benefits of Marines giving back to the community."
In Central America, the LCE Marines will utilize their skills, which are typically used to build structures for combat engineering purposes, to strengthen relationships with partner nations through their construction projects. These projects have been directed by partner nation governments, and Marines are scheduled to accomplish the construction working in conjunction with their partner nation counterparts.
"The SPMAGTF is a different deployment then a lot of the Marines are used to," Deitrich said. "A lot of times engineers build and tear town. With this, they will have something they can be proud of and say we built that from the ground up and helped out a community.'"
Certain Command Element Marines also conducted training focused on building and strengthening relationships within the communities of Central America. These Marines, with roles in public and civil affairs, participated in simulated key leader engagements in a Central American town at the Infantry Immersion Trainer.
"The IIT was beneficial because it forced our team to make real-world decisions that would affect the mission and our involvement in the community," said Sgt. Jeffrey Borrego, civil affairs specialist with SPMAGTF-SC. "Engaging with important figures in different areas and taking the time to talk to local people are key components to better understanding what assistance the community needs and how the Marines can use their resources to help."
While in Central America, the civil and public affairs Marines will need to work closely with other sections and partner nation governments in order to ensure the overall mission is being accomplished. The IIT was an opportunity for the Marines to practice building relationships to accomplish a goal desired by both the U.S. and partner nations.
At the forward operating base of the exercise, the CE conducted various command and control training such as setup and tear down of command tents, communications and logistics. It was an opportunity for the Marines to gain a better understanding of the unique challenges presented by deployed operations.
"The COC is made up of Marines with all different backgrounds, so it's important that we train together and get on the same page," Hernandez said. "In the event of a natural disaster, we now have the experience to set up a COC and keep it functioning no matter where we need to respond."
With the second general exercise around the corner, SPMAGTF-SC Marines hope to build on the experiences gained from this exercise and use the training to continue to grow together as unit. SPMAGTF-SC is scheduled to deploy to Central America in late May 2017.