AL ASAD, Iraq -- While in a combat environment, many service members let training take a backseat to the current mission and forget about it entirely. For two Marines with Marine Attack Squadron 513, training has become an important part of their daily regime.
Both, Staff Sgt. Alfredo Topete, aviation ordnance noncommissioned officer-in-charge, and Sgt. Casey J. Yartym, flight equipment technician, VMA-513, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), have given their squadron the chance to train in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program while deployed.
"We wanted to give the Marines a chance to better themselves while out here," said Yartym, a native of Avoca, N.Y.
"We conducted the training to get Marines out of their daily routines," said Topete, a native of Pacoima, Calif. "Some Marines get so wrapped up around the flight schedule that they start to forget about training."
The MCMAP course was designed to allow the Marines with the squadron a chance to partake in training that they would be unable to otherwise.
"It's hard to get the maintenance Marines out to a MCMAP course while we are in the (United States)," said Yartym. "In the States the courses are three or four hours a day for two weeks, it's hard to pull a maintenance Marine away from their shop for that long without the shop suffering, but out here we just grab the Marines for an hour or so. As soon as we are done, they go back to their shop."
The Marines from VMA-513 wasted little time getting the training started, according to Yartym.
"We started planning as soon as we hit the dirt," said Topete. "Sergeant Yartym had the first class going in March, only a few weeks after we landed in country."
"We had to incorporate the environment into the training," said Yartym. "We created a MCMAP pit where we practice throws and ground fighting and an infiltration course -- a 60-foot-long block of land with barbed wire across it, which the Marines crawl under. We also have the fire department come down and spray the infiltration course so that it is muddy for the Marines."
The Marines of VMA-513 have clearly taken advantage of the opportunity to train and become more efficient.
"We certified about 200 Marines from VMA-513, some of them for two different belts," said Topete. "We also conducted sustainment training at Corporal's Course, and we have trained Marines from other commands."
According to Topete, the martial arts training is a great experience for the Marines, especially while deployed.
"This type of training is very effective, especially in a combat zone," said Topete. "It helps Marines get into a combat mindset and prepares them for their seven months in the desert."