MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany Marine Band packed up equipment Friday and answered the call of duty which did not end until Sunday morning.
This call of duty, however, was different.
The band members did not assemble by the band hall and board the bus to reach their destination.
They met at the armory and stepped off by foot.
They left all their instruments and dress uniforms behind, trading them in for M16-A2 service rifles, 240G machine guns, utility uniforms and packs, all of which were much more appropriate for the field exercise they were headed for in Training Area 4, at the eastern end of MCLB Albany.
According to Chief Warrant Officer Lauren LaVine, MCLB Albany band officer, the training scenario, a Georgia-based militia operating in the area of MCLB Albany was attempting to make its way through Training Area 4 to get to the arms and equipment stored aboard the base.
Members of the militia, portrayed by staff noncommissioned officers from the band, assaulted the Marines defensive lines in three and four-man groups, then melted back into the jungle, attacking and retreating in lightning fast strikes.
The enemy also attacked and harassed each of the six day and night security patrols.
A lot of training was done prior to the field exercise, said LaVine.
Like other Marines we need to train for this sort of thing.
The band is an operational platoon, and although most of what we do is musical in nature, we may be called upon to provide a linear defense, guard an ammo dump, provide perimeter security, conduct patrols or participate in urban operations.
A lot of these Marines have not done this since leaving MCT (Marine Combat Training), LaVine said.
About five months ago we started planning for this operation.
We couldnt stop providing music and dedicate a lot of time to a training operation like this, so fitting it into our operational calendar took a lot of work.
We had to find time to plan and train without allowing our level of musical performance to suffer; I believe we accomplished that goal, explained LaVine.
The three days and two nights of training were designed to prepare the Marines for real-world situations.
Classroom instruction and hands-on training were done in the five months prior to the exercise.
The pre-exercise training included land navigation, patrol tactics, ambush and counter ambush tactics, security operations, emergency evacuation of injured personnel, and the handling of prisoners of war.
Most of the training was followed by practical application to reinforce what was learned.
According to several Marines involved in the exercise, many band members enjoyed getting out to the field because they believe their unique musical mission creates a false impression of their capabilities as Marines.
We are a deployable force, said Cpl. Tammy Leverich, a band member.
It is good for everyone to know that we do train and we are an operational unit, Leverich added
According to Cpl. Jeffrey Frank, a trumpet player in the band, when most people think of Marines, they think of the field Marine manning the defense and carrying a rifle.
This is what people think of when they think of Marines, said Frank, standing in a half-dug fighting hole.
People think we just play our instruments, like the Presidents Own [band].
They dont realize that we went through boot camp and actually train like every other Marine, Frank added.
LaVine said he was very happy with the training and the way the band Marines conducted themselves in the field.
There was the typical amount of chaos that comes with a situation that is unfamiliar, especially when training for low-intensity conflict.
But the Marines did a great job of staying focused and alert.
I see the band coming out here and conducting training of this sort once a year, said LaVine.
Cpl. Jason Lee, a trumpet player in the band, spoke for many of the band members when he said they enjoyed the change of routine the field training gave them.
We are Marine band members, said Lee. We get to do the band part of it all the time.
Its good to get out here and do the Marine part of it too.