MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- With camouflage paint on their faces and M-16A2 service rifles slung over their shoulders, a group of college students trained over the weekend to become Marine officers.
Students from Auburn University's Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Program conducted a field training exercise aboard the base this weekend.
The exercise gave 19 midshipmen and five enlisted commissioning education Marines the opportunity to put knowledge they acquired in more than 20 classroom hours of study and to practical use, according to Gunnery Sgt. Scott Duplechain, the assistant Marine Officer Instructor at Auburn.
"We are preparing midshipmen and MECEP [Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program] students for Officers Candidate School and The Basic School," said Duplechain.
The four-year NROTC Program at Auburn allows midshipmen to head for OCS after their junior year, and MECEPs student leave after their first year.
The students arrived late Friday and immediately set up a bivouac, a temporary shelter, so they could get a good night's rest before the following day's training began.
The future Marine officers yelled enthusiastically as they began the morning with an 8.2-mile road march that tested their endurance, strength and physical fitness.
This experience established a foundation that made the students more prepared to face the challenges of OCS and TBS, said Maj. Matthew Sieber, the Marine Officer Instructor at Auburn.
Sweating profusely under the bright sun, the students kept charged on, determined to learn all they could during the limited time they were here.
According to the platoon sergeant for the exercise, the group performed well, showing a high level of motivation and commitment. Midshipman 2nd Class Amanda Donnelly, a Springfield, Ohio, native, reported she enjoyed the chance to train with authentic M-16A2 service rifles. The students usually train with rubber imitations.
"It is a lot better than running through the woods yelling 'Badda-Badda-Jam'," said Donnelly referring to training with imitation rifles.
Using authentic rifles also meant the students conducted maintenance and safety precautionary measures that go along with the M-16A2 service rifle, said Sieber.
Their magazines filled with blank rounds, the midshipmen and MECEP Marines began their patrolling maneuvers and conducted fire team exercises. They also walked through the woods locating random points, which tested their land navigation abilities, said Duplechain.
"It is motivating being out here. Everyone is working really hard," said Donnelly who took the chance to be the day's platoon sergeant as a learning lesson and a way to evaluate herself as a leader. "It is an honor to have the opportunity to lead my classmates."
Donnelly and several other exercise participants will go to OCS at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., in July, to become Marine officers
"I think it is definitely important that we are out here and able to get a good taste of Marine Corps training," said Midshipman 4th Class Matthew Seglem, a native of Prince William, Va.
According to Seglem, the students wanted to leave Albany with a better understanding of infantry maneuvers and how to work as team.
"I truly believe we are accomplishing that," said Seglem.
"We are preparing these guys to make it through OCS and The Basic School," said Sieber. "I want my people to come out of each evolution at a level that makes them more apt to succeed at OCS."
The Base Obstacle Course gave the students another taste of OCS. In the past, the group had tested the obstacle course at Fort Benning, Ga. However, reports indicate the level of difficulty of the Fort Benning course does not compare to a Marine obstacle course, which will be what the students will face at OCS, said Sieber.
Sieber thanked base personnel and 1st Lt. Jayson Durden, the S-3 officer for their support of the exercise.
"This day sums up a semester of training," said Staff Sgt. Clarence Tinney, a MECEP student at Auburn.