MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit doesn't start the workup phase for its next Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf deployment for a few more months, but Marines here are doing some hardcore training already.
The 13th MEU's newly appointed commanding officer, Col. Michael R. Regner, a Charleston, S.C. native and 26-year veteran of the Corps, applies his "Regner's Rules" approach to training Marines.
Regner asks Marines to create the training, and it must have three constants - make it safe, make it challenging and make it fun.
So far, the MEU has done a commanding officer's run, combat soccer - incorporating the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program into the game, combat water survival course, and most recently, a run down to the Del Mar Boat Basin in camouflage utilities and sneakers followed by a 300-meter swim across the basin and a run back to the MEU command post.
"You have to know each Marine's training requirements for their military occupational specialty, so you can challenge them," Regner said. "Not all training can be fun, in fact, sometimes it is downright physically challenging. I want these Marines to have a greater appreciation of their gear and their own physical capabilities. When you push their physical capabilities, you build their confidence."
"The Fighting 13th" is only a few weeks into the training evolution, but it is already paying off.
"In the past units I've been with, they promise training, but now we're actually doing it with the new (commanding officer)," said Sgt. Jorge Palaciosmejia, a 30-year-old El Paso, Texas native, who has served as an admin clerk for 10 years. "It's good training just to get out there, even for me as a fourth class swimmer, because it makes me feel more like a Marine. Even though I'm an oh-one-five-one admin clerk, every Marine is a rifleman and needs to do this training."
For Erick D. James, a 19-year-old lance corporal with the Communications Section of the MEU, the training was a chance to get better at something he hadn't done much.
"The training is better because it teaches me something I need to know, like swimming," said James, a radio operator who hails from Houston, Texas. "I never went swimming. Little by little, I'm catching on. You never know if you'll be on a ship and go overboard or the ship goes down. You need to be able to stay alive and keep other Marines alive as well."
Regner's goal is to keep Marines interested in the training by making it unique and challenging, while getting everyone up to speed.
To keep the ball rolling, the MEU is planning an 8-mile march under load in early September, which will combine the rigors of a forced march with packs with a 9 mm pistol shoot at the end. The idea is to test Marines' concentration and skill after a physically demanding march.
Regner believes in challenging his Marines collectively and individually - something he says every Marine wanted when they joined the Marines.
"Marines came into the Marine Corps to be challenged, physically as well as mentally. From an operational aspect, our training is going to be safe, challenging and fun when Marines train under 'Regner's Rules.'"
The Command Element of the 13th MEU has about 115 Marines who make up the higher headquarters of the MEU. After returning June 17 from a 7-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the 13th MEU dropped its Special Operations Capable designation a month later and disbanded all its reinforcements except the Command Element. What remains are staff officers and noncommissioned officers, admin clerks, supply gurus, radio operators, computer techs, intelligence analysts and operational planners.
With no immediate end in sight for the "War on Terrorism," warriors with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit are using this fresh approach to training to ensure they are ready sooner than later.