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Combat Vehicle Operators Course saves lives

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.(Dec. 9, 2005) -- According to Pentagon officials, the leading cause of non-combat deaths in Iraq involve vehicles and can be tolled up to a lack of training, experience, common sense or, in hostile situations, the lack of knowing the proper standard operating procedures while serving in a combat zone. The Combat Vehicle Operator’s Course hopes to improve that statistic.


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The CVOT is a refresher course designed to give motor transport operators more confidence and experience to better them as they venture on deployments in different environments, according to Gunnery Sgt. Robert E. Walston, the staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the CVOT Program at the Motor Vehicle Incidental Driver’s School here.

The program’s academics and applications instilled on Camp Lejeune are two-fold, according to Walston.

The first part of the program is conducted in a classroom setting with five periods of instruction focusing on detailed techniques for various situations both in and out of a combat zone.

The first class centers on being able to properly check, service and maintain the Marine’s weapons, communication devices and vehicle prior to operation. They are also taught the fundamentals of driving with night-vision goggles.

Class two focuses on vehicle dynamics for armored vehicles. Most Humvees are operating with the new Marine Armored Kits, which provides a steel shell around vital parts of the vehicle.
Unfortunately, the extra weight demands for different driving and handling techniques in a plethora of situations.

The third class deals with how to react to unusual terrain and adverse driving techniques for something as uncontrolable as inclement weather or as dangerous as a firefight or improvised explosive device detonation. The Marines are also taught how to react to a ‘whiteout.’ The term whiteout refers to a Marine wearing night-vision goggles who temporarily loses his vision due to a bright light.

Next, the students are taught how to operate a vehicle in restricted terrain such as crossing bridges or canal, driving down narrow roads or navigating through a congested, urban environment.

The final period of instruction deals with post-mishap procedures, vehicle recovery and passenger extraction. They are instructed on how to properly extract a Marine from a vehicle that’s been submerged in water for instance, both in and out of a combat environment. What to do when a vehicle gets a flat tire or needs to be serviced while in combat is also addressed.

After the classroom instruction culminates, the students are put to the test where they are expected to utilize their knowledge to conduct a convoy operation in the Greater Sandy Run Training Area near Holly Ridge, N.C.

The convoy begins at the school and ends at the GSRTA where the Marines will train in an obstacle course, according to Walston.

The obstacle course could also be referred to as a confidence course, because it is meant to give the Marines a combat mindset and prepare them for combat.

The course focuses on the application of what they learned during the classroom and provides obstacles such as bridges, canals, hills, ditches, bodies of water and urban environments for them to train in, both day and night.

“The obstacle course is a confidence course in every sense of the word,” said Walston. “The course we’ve got setup runs Marines through situations they never thought they’d be in. It’s gives them an idea as to what it’s like to handle their vehicle in an adverse environment, while crossing a bridge or creeping over a narrow pathway. I don’t know of a better way to build confidence.”

The course is primarily for staff non-commissioned officers to provide unit leaders with proper knowledge on the subject so they may be properly trained to instruct their individual Marines at their units.

Overall, the course teaches Marines how to handle themselves in various situations they may encounter in combat. It helps them build their confidence with the vehicles and themselves so they do not panic if a dangerous situation ensues. It also keeps them up-to-date with the most recent standard operating procedures for vehicular convoys in Iraq, so they may know everything they need to in order to save lives and complete their mission.