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Marines Regain Their Warfare Sea Legs


CAMP PENDLETON — Cpl. Brett Doggett didn't flinch, didn't even bother to casually look around when an earsplitting burst from a machine gun suddenly erupted behind him.

"It's second nature to me," the Marine from Mission Viejo said Friday. "I can tell any weapon by its sound."

At 26, Doggett is already one of the old pros. He put in four years of active duty and was deployed to Panama before he shifted into the reserves six months ago and went to college to study international business.

But he is back in the military business now, one of about 825 Marine reservists who were mobilized earlier this month. They reported to Camp Pendleton last week for processing back to active duty and are undergoing a four-day refresher course.

Doggett and most or all of the other Marines back on active duty will probably be deployed to the Middle East with the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade stationed at the camp.

But, for the moment, they are brushing up on old skills.

Capt. Scott Sease of Carlsbad is making sure that soldiers who until last week were ordinary citizens--except for one weekend of reserve duty a month--are honed for possible combat.

"It's just a refresher course, none of it's new," said Sease, noting that these Marines had basic infantry training before they joined the reserves, where they spend two weeks training annually, besides the one weekend a month.

"Attitude-wise, these guys know they're going over, so they're taking it seriously," said Sease, the assistant operations officer for the camp's infantry school.

Some reservists, including senior noncommissioned officers, have not seen extended active duty in 10 years. Sease said, "Some of these guys I could probably call dad."

During the refresher course, they fire such weapons as a .50-caliber machine gun and a MK-19 heavy machine gun; take classes in offensive and defensive tactics; patrol and clear a mock enemy town and trenches; learn about Mideast culture, and prepare for chemical warfare.

Sease said there is "no lesson plan" for teaching Marines how to react in combat emotionally, but he makes sure that they think about reality as they train.

"I ask them, 'Can you see who you're shooting at? Can they see you? Then that's not good,' " he said, reminding the Marines to take concealed positions.

For Doggett, the mobilization meant having to drop his classes at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo.

Still, he considers himself lucky, at least in one respect. "I'm not leaving anybody behind, like a girlfriend or anything," he said.

Doggett is a machine gunner with the 4th Light Armored Infantry. Because he left active duty for the reserves just six months ago, it is all fresh enough in his mind that he can help the others.

"I'm concentrating on training and bringing other people up to speed on the equipment," he said.

Weapons may be crucial for fighting, but Doggett and the other mobilized reservists are also practicing another skill for survival in desert warfare: drinking lots of water.

Doggett said he is consuming 1 1/2 gallons a day to prepare for the desert.

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