CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, participated in Security and Stability Operations (SASO) here, March 8-12.
The Marines absorbed classes and training in everything from urban patrolling, setting up a forward operating base, convoy operations and mounted patrols to vehicle checkpoint operations.
The training involved many jobs the Marines did in the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom but with a different twist.
“We were knocking down the door in OIF but now we’re learning to knock on the door in SASO,” said Lance Cpl. James T. Jenkins, a squad leader in 1st Platoon, Company C, BLT 1/4.
The Marines learned new SASO aspects like apologizing for inconveniences after a vehicle or personnel search or keeping a watchful eye out for improvised explosive devices.
The battalion is scheduled to deploy with the 11th MEU this June and is gearing up in case they’re tagged for urban operations.
“The whole battalion is trying to prepare for another deployment similar to OIF where the focus is not combat but finishing the job we started,” said 2nd Lt. Jeremy T. Sellars, assault platoon commander, Co. C. “We want to win the hearts and minds of the people.”
While a stop in Iraq has not been confirmed for the 11th MEU’s deployment, the SASO training was meant for the squad leaders and individual Marines to feel confident if they are deployed to that location.
“We want the individual Marine to think for himself and respond immediately,” Sellars said. “Their leaders can’t always be there with them.”
Sellars also added that squads and fire teams are gaining experience and trust in their abilities from this training.
“We want the smaller unit to act,” he said. “As long as the individual is not thinking he’s just a robot Marine, the better he’ll handle a situation.”
Floods of Marines poured out of the convoys in one particular exercise, reacting to a single sniper played by another Marine in the bushes. In another exercise, Marines learned how to watch the streets they are patrolling for IEDs painted to blend in with the brown blocks of clay and stone.
Sellars said the newer Marines “might be itchy on the trigger” and may employ more force than “they needed to use.” SASO training is the Corps’ way of preventing that.
The battalion is thick with veterans of OIF, and that experience is trickled down to the Marines fresh from the School of Infantry.
“This is most of the stuff we did in Iraq, and the (younger Marines) should be fine because they can feed off our experience,” said Lance Cpl. Jose E. Tena, an assault man with Weapons Plt., Co. C.
The SASO training seemed to instill confidence in one Marine who joined the unit in late January, Pvt. Markus R. Dale.
“It’s good to feel how to operate in this environment,” said Dale, a radio operator with 1st Plt. Co. C. “I’m learning how to do my job and what’s going to be ahead of me.”