"Guardian Angels" ready for Iraq

28 Feb 2003 | Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi

Personal Security Detachment, I Marine Expeditionary Force is preparing for upcoming missions in Iraq by honing their force protection skills at Camp Victory. While in Kuwait, the detachment is training for a variety of situations; that translates into polishing convoy-driving tactics, counter-surveillance techniques and identification of improvised explosive devices.On Feb. 28 the team, comprised predominantly of reserve Marines, focused on their driving skills. The training scenario was evacuating the "principle," the commanding general of I MEF, from "hairy situations."One situation placed members of the PSD and the principle being attacked by an enemy vehicle, portrayed by other PSD Marines."Most of us have seen combat together," said Sgt. Robert Mendoza, who was mobilized from 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. "We know we're not going to freeze up, when we get into a bad situation - we'll do whatever it takes to bring everyone back safely." The PSD had to lose the aggressors by whipping through a simulated street and completing different driving tactics to evade the enemy. The majority of the I MEF commanding general Lt. Gen. James T. Conway's PSD is comprised of veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom; others bring experience from their civilian jobs. "We have a great mix of combat and law enforcement experience," said Sgt. Kristoffer K. Bauer, PSD, a native of Redding, Calif.The bulk of the team was mobilized from 4th LAR and 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. "Most of us were in Iraq for eight months during the first round," said Mendoza, a native of Houston, Texas. "We have the knowledge of the streets, people and what to look for when driving in convoys."Their experience derives not only from the battlefield, but also from the Military Mobility Force Protection Course, where PSD members learned mission specific tactics to protect their principle. "The great thing about this course was (the instructors) just didn't talk about being in stressful situations in a classroom setting - they put you in real live scenarios that got your heart pumping," said Bauer.Bauer said students were given scenarios, such as being outnumbered and trapped in the enemy's backyard with only 20 rounds between the whole team. "This is how we prepared for this mission - putting ourselves in the worst possible situation and learning how to continue to operate effectively," he said.