MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Marines from the Ground
Combat Element Integrated Task Force returned to Marine Corps Base Camp
Lejeune, May 20, 2015, after completing the Marine Corps Operational Test and
Evaluation Activity assessment after three months in the Mojave Desert and a just
a few weeks in Bridgeport.
Phase Two of the Assessment:
In early March, GCEITF Marines began the MCOTEA assessment
at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, and
branched off to Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport and
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for phase two of the assessment. Prior to the
Task Force performing the assessment, the companies trained for four months at
Each MCOTEA assessment varied, depending on the Marines’
military occupational specialty and was assessed on a specific combat-arms
billet. Male and female Marines executed tasks in one of the following: infantry
rifleman (0311), machine gunner (0331), mortarman (0341), infantry assaultman
(0351), anti-tank missileman (0352), light armored vehicle crewman (0313), M1A1
tank crewman (1812), amphibious assault vehicle crewman (1833), field artillery
cannoneer (0811), and combat engineer (1371).
the assessment at Twentynine Palms, infantry Marines and combat engineers were
hiking every other day with a combat load at approximately 60 pounds on a
four-day cycle, conducting offensive and defensive operations, firing their
not very often in life you find something you can’t physically or mentally
handle; I have never been tested so intensely before,” said Cpl. Sarah
Wentling, machine gunner, Weapons Company, GCEITF. “I am thankful for that
experience. I never would have found that in my previous MOS.”
previously stationed at Twentynine Palms working as a mechanic in a tool room,
Wentling said she volunteered to better herself as a Marine and see a different
side of the Corps, and in addition got to see another side of Twentynine Palms.
very thankful for this experience,” Wentling said. “This is an experience that
I would have otherwise never had the opportunity to be a part of. A lot of
people join the Marine Corps to be pushed past their limit because we find some
kind of excitement in seeing what we can and can’t do. This is the first time
in my life I have been pushed to the limit and beyond the limit at that.”
the combat engineers, they conducted hasty breaches, mine sweeps, cache
reductions and combat-conditioning hikes, alongside the infantry Marines in the
desert, and sometimes off in the distance, depending on what they were blowing
up. Although the Marines knew what to expect each day, every day brought
different and unique challenges.
four-mile hikes in Twentynine Palms weren’t bad at first,” said Cpl. Andrew
Cochran, combat engineer, Engineer Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company,
GCEITF. “It’s easy but it was repetitive. You have to have heart with this type
of thing. You have to stick with it and keep pushing no matter how tough it
Force Marines were dispersed throughout several ranges at Twentynine Palms.
Companies rarely crossed paths at Camp Wilson, as most of their time was spent
in the field. Crews with Tanks, LAVs and AAVs spent majority of their time at
Range 500 firing their vehicle’s main guns, loading ammunition, breaking track,
and conducting crew evacuations and casualty evacuations during their
mindset coming to the Task Force was seeing how reservists transitioned to
active duty, and how females and males were going to work together,” said Sgt.
Chaz L. Como, tank crewman with Tank Plt., Company B, GCEITF. “The most
positive thing that came from the Task Force and the assessment is to never
judge a Marine by their perception at first; let them show their ability to
perform. It didn’t really matter what your rank was or what unit you came from,
it really came down to not judging Marines and letting the Marines be able to
show their abilities.”
every Marine’s performance was put to the test, over out at Gun Position Quackenbush,
artillery Marines continued to push through their assessment as they conducted high-and-low
angle fire missions, out-of-traverse fire missions, emergency displacement and
battery defensive positions.
feels pretty awesome to have completed the assessment,” said Sgt. Mindy A.
Vuong, field artillery cannoneer, Battery A, GCEITF. “I volunteered because it
was an opportunity I would probably never have again being both a sergeant and
closer to 30 years old than 20. I also believe that women are capable of
performing combat jobs. This was a chance for me to help prove this to both
myself and others. We did what we set out to do and I'm sure that if the Marine
Corps had further missions for us as a battery and as a task force, we would
not be resting on our laurels.”
Marines with Battery A, Tank and LAV Platoons completed their assessment at
Twentynine Palms and headed back to North Carolina, AAV Platoon traveled to
Camp Pendleton for waterborne and beach tasks while infantry Marines and
engineers traveled to Bridgeport for their final assessments.
in Twentynine Palms, I think we did really well. In the beginning we were a
little bit slower because we weren't used to it. It was a little bit different
for us but once we started to do the routine over and over again we got
quicker, faster and smarter,” said Sgt. Kassie L. McDole, AAV crewman, Company
B, GCEITF. "Out here in Del Mar, we didn't have as many trials as we did
in Twentynine Palms. Water’s a little more dangerous in my opinion – you take
what you learned, you ask questions, you learn from each other, and you learn
from the staff. The staff has been teaching us and answering any questions
we've had. Just relying on your training and the Marines to the right and left
of you and going out there and doing it. It's pretty awesome."
AAV Marines performed their final assessment on the water, infantry Marines and
combat engineers encountered a slightly rockier final assessment where they
hiked through elevation of over 7,000 feet with a 75-pound pack, and performed
a 170-ft gorge crossing and a 40-foot cliff face climbing event during their
time at Bridgeport.
gorge crossing was by far the hardest part of the assessment in my opinion,”
said Sgt. Radmila M. Allen, rifleman with Company A, GCEITF. “It was
challenging for upper-body, and I have a fear of heights. This experience has
taught me that I can push myself and accomplish more than I ever thought. It
made me physically and mentally strong, and I am very grateful for that.”
the past three months, some days were longer than others, and the tasks seemed
grueling and at times, unbearable. But the experiences, camaraderie and the
knowledge will be a part of the Marines’ lives for a lifetime.
exciting to finish what you start,” Allen said. “I was outside of my comfort
zone but I definitely feel more-rounded as a noncommissioned officer. It’s sad
at the same time because I met a lot of great influential people here, and we
will go our separate ways.”
October 2014 to July 2015, the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force conducted
individual and collective skills training in designated ground combat arms
occupational specialties in order to facilitate a standards based assessment of
the physical performance of Marines in a simulated operating environment
performing specific ground combat arms tasks.