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Sweat Hogs shift gears in Arizona

By Pfc. Jason D. Mills | | June 23, 2006

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Every Sweat Hog in Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 with a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle license is attending a combat vehicle operator training course in Yuma, Ariz., during Desert Talon.

The CVOT course began on the first day of training and will not end until the last day of training, making it the longest training exercise at Desert Talon.

“The CVOT course is basically just an advanced driving school,” said Staff Sgt. Gabriel Macias, the Motor Transportation Company gunnery sergeant.

Although the two-day course focuses on the Sweat Hogs in Motor Transportation Company, everyone with a humvee license is required to take before they go to Iraq.

“Everyone who has a humvee license needs to take the course,” Macias said. “Because of the numerous deaths and injuries that could have been avoided due to service members not used to driving in shifting sands with a lot of weight.”

The make-shift course was made out of sand bags and harsh desert roads, something that the Marines who are taking the course cannot experience in the safety of garrison life.

“Yuma is a great place for something like this because it really lets the Marines experience first-hand what it is like in Iraq,” said Sgt. Daniel Anderson, a CVOT instructor from MWSS-273. “Most of these drivers have never experienced what it is like driving in the desert; they are used to driving on a paved road on a base, much like driving a car. What the CVOT course does is allow the individual Marine to build confidence in their ability to drive (with) their equipment.”

The course teaches Marines how to maneuver sharp turns with a heavy load, negotiate narrow bridges, drive through tight spaces and how to control their vehicle on a side slope. The course also lets the Marines drive with night vision goggles so they can become more comfortable when they have to use them in Iraq, according to Macias.

“It allows the Marines to make judgment calls,” Macias said. “It is hard to drive with NVG’s on but when you throw in dust and the whole off road experience and you have to deal with trees, and rocks it is very difficult. It takes the Marines out of their element and builds their confidence.”

The course is a relatively new idea but is very necessary, according to Sgt. Christopher Hensley, a CVOT instructor from MWSS-273.

“This course is very pertinent,” Hensley said. “It teaches the Marines to have more confidence in themselves and their vehicles, most of these Marines have never received any kind of training like this and aren’t ready for the conditions over in Iraq.”

There have been over 100 avoidable traffic-related deaths in Iraq and this course is aimed to drastically reduce those numbers in the future, according to Hensley.

“Most of these casualties could have been avoided had the driver known how to handle their vehicle,” Hensley said.

The course focuses on those Marines who have never been to Iraq, but everyone who attends the course learns something new.

“This will be my second time to Iraq,” said Lance Cpl. Corey Hamrick, a motor transportation driver for MWSS-273.” The course taught me how to drive with NVG’s and has overall prepared me better then the first time that I deployed.”

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