posted on Jun, 14 2012 @ 12:27 AM
0400, the Corporals and Sergeants rise and begin the routine of making their rounds banging on the doors in the barracks where their Marines are
sleeping. The whole time yelling "Get up, Get up, Get out of the rack". Lights begin to come on all around the barracks as the Marines wake up and
open their doors to let the NCOs know that they are up. The NCOs check in with all their Marines to ensure they are ready and are not dragging behind.
Weapons draw at the armory is at 0430 so time is short.
It is a warm Carolina summer morning and the humidity is already heavy enough to fog up windows uncontrollably. It's only 0430 and you are already
sweating and are beginning to dread the awful heat and humidity you will be training in for the next few weeks. Standing in line at the armory to draw
your weapon and all you can smell is alcohol from the previous nights drunken madness. Good thing there will be no live fire today and you will sweat
it out very quickly where you are going.
0500, weapons are drawn and the platoon gets into formation for the platoon sergeant to get their accountability for the morning report. When the
platoon falls out the LAV crewman get to work doing their pre-op checks and firing up the LAVs. The rifleman get to work stowing the supplies need to
sustain them for the next three to four weeks in the field. Their packs are loaded with a lot of gear and it takes a good heave to hook them to the
side of the vehicles by yourself. Once the vehicles are loaded they are staged until our time for departure arrives. First comes the safety brief
from the Commanding Officer. Now it is time to roll out and begin some heavy training.
As the vehicle roll out the Rifleman in the back of the LAVs who are popped up out of the hatches begin to feel the breeze which is already a relief
from the muggy morning air. For the next twenty minutes the Rifleman in the back will doze off while they make their way to the training area. The
route to the training area actually a very beautiful drive. It takes you the base and the mainside training areas before you leave the back gate and
cross the bridge over New River. You are close enough to the ocean now to smell it and feel the cool breeze rolling in off the Atlantic Ocean. Fifteen
minutes off base and you reach the training areas south of town. Our destination is SR-7, the LAV Gunnery Range.
For the LAV crewman this is their first and only destination for the next two to three weeks. For the Rifleman, Mortarmen, and T.O.W Gunners our
journey begins at SR-7. When the LAVs pull in and park on the concrete padded staging area, all of the Rifleman, Mortarmen, and T.O.W Gunners strap on
their packs, grab their weapons, and line up in formation on the road. The time is now 0700 and the sun is up and already uncomfortably warm. You take
a drink from your canteen and know that it will be your best friend for the next few weeks. When evey one is up, we move out in tactical columns down
the long road to the Infantrymans Holy Land, The Camp Lejeune K-Ranges. For the next few weeks you will be training in the hot sun and muggy nights
but the payoff is the weaponry that you are able to utilize on the ranges. After all Marines love their weaponry.
It only takes about a mile or so to get warmed up and humping along at a brisk pace. At first the Marines are talking amongst each other but soon they
are too focused on the physical needs required to do their jobs. Most end up just humping along thinking to themselves or like me, paying attention to
the forest and swamps around me and just how different it was from where I grew up. By the time you reach the corner of the two roads that run along
the ranges you are so hot you feel like you have been in an oven. It's about three to five miles or so to that point and each road goes down a few
miles until they both end at the river.
You might stop here for a few short minutes to rest, and hydrate. Sometimes you will drop your pack while you stop but usually you just leave it on as
it is easier that way. The NCOs check over their Marines and look for signs of heat stroke as most NCOs have seen their fare share through the ranks.
After about ten minutes you begin to move out again and head toward your first range and bivuac area is. The demolition range is your destination and
it happens to be the last range on the road.
By now it is mid morning and already 90* plus with 90-100% humidity and you have barely cooled off from the first leg of the journey. The first two
miles go at a steady pace but as you enter the last mile the pace begins to steadily increase until you are all out running, or double timing as we
call it. About a half mile to go and you here the dreaded words, "GAS, GAS, GAS". You hold your breath, reach down, and pull your mask knowing in a
real world situation you have no more than nine seconds to don and clear your mask. You get your mask on and, your helmet back on and take a deep
breath and almost gasp due to the strength it takes to breath that hard in a gas mask.
By now everyone is masked and the range is in sight. The pace just keeps on truckin as you get closer. With each step it becomes harder to breath,
then you see the hand go up and the columns begin to slow to a walking pace. As you enter the range area you get the all clear and rip your mask off
in pursuit of clean air. The fresh air coming off the river is refreshing even in the baking heat of the Carolina sun. The next hour will be spent
recovering, eating, and setting up the bivuac area for the night. When it's hot you don't even bother with a tent unless it is going to storm, that
is if headquarters brings you out tents, or you and your buddy opted not to hump the tent.
The afternoon begins with the sun frying any exposed skin which is not much since we go sleeves down on our uniforms. You spend all afternoon learning
or re-learning the basics of explosives and demolitions. Evening comes and you finally get a little break to relax and find some shade. Everyone is
burnt out. Uniforms are soaked in sweat as it still pours from you as you sit in the shade. It takes a good while to cool down but eventually you get
there. You eat again, clean your weapon and get prepared for your night of both training and fun.
At night when you are not live firing the squads like to patrol south and sneak in and recon the School Of Infantry students and test their defenses.
They never knew when you were coming. Their instructors would know you were in the area and that you would as this was normal for most units to do.
Nighttime in the Carolina woods is interesting to say the least. While out patrolling you constantly here Marines falling into holes, and creeks, and
tripping over underbrush. The mosquitos are now sucking your blood from anywhere they can at a rate too high for you to do anything about. The
chiggers have dug in to your skin around your boot laces and your belt loop. The ticks find a place to dig in amongst the chiggers and mosquitos. You
finally finnish your patrolling and make it back to the bivuac and are secured for the night. Once the watches are set everyone just drops everything
and racks out for the night. The sounds of the swamps serenading the men to sleep.
That is how Marines camp and enjoy nature. Even in the blistering, humid Carolina summers it is still enjoyable to get out in nature with a bunch of
good guy and have some fun. We just take along machine guns and hand grenades.