U.S. Navy Brown-Water Sailors

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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Riza Wenthe

The Navy’s first Riverine Group Squadron (RIVRON) of the 21st century completed Common Combat Skills training, the first phase of pre-deployment training, June 29 at the School of Infantry (SOI) at Marine Base Camp Lejeune.

Nicknamed "Devil Squids" by the instructors of SOI’s Instruction Training Battalion, RIVRON 1 received training in basic infantry skills, which they’ll continue to build upon until qualified to deploy.

Cmdr. William Guarini, commanding officer of RIVRON 1, said the Navy is placing a lot of emphasis on this renewed type of warfare.

"Riverines are being re-established by the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) to extend the Navy’s reach back into the brown water internal waterways and rivers around the world," said Guarini. "A lot of the regions of instability are on rivers and waterways – in terms of boundaries and symmetric threats – that aren’t as easily viable as at sea with the ‘blue-water fleet.’"

RIVRON 1 is the first of three planned riverine squadrons. They were formally established May 25 at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va. Less than two weeks later, the 220 members of RIVRON 1 moved operations to Camp Lejeune to begin training.

"The FEX (field exercise) training received here will provide the foundation to continue developing individual and collective skills or competencies throughout their pre-deployment training cycle," said Marine Capt. Frank Dillbeck, commanding officer, Bravo Company Infantry Training Battalion. "This is the starting point of the evolution of the unit – teaching them the fundamentals of being an infantryman."

"They’ll build on those skills,” added Dillbeck, “and when they move onto the more collective tasks and train as boat teams and detachments, every single Sailor is on one common ground.”

RIVRON 1 is comprised of Navy personnel of different ratings. Although this re-established "brown-water Navy" has a completely different mission than its "blue-water" predecessors, their job skill sets are valued on both platforms.

"Boatswain’s mates are combat coxswain of the small craft, OSs (operations specialists) will run our operations center, Seabee Sailors will take charge of our combat gear," said Guarini. "It’s a variety of rates, and they’re all true to their rates – core rates doing the core missions, but applied in a different way."

Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class (SW) Joshua Holder, RIVRON 1 Det. 1, said morale is high and camaraderie is strong within the detachment.

"We’re a new command, but we’ve gone through a lot already," said Holder. "When you go through stuff like this - living and sleeping in the field together and training is so physically demanding - it’s become like a brotherhood."

"Your teammates become your family and it brings a closer bond,” Holder continued, “especially when you know one day they’re going to go into combat with you."

RIVRON 1 Sailors continue combat training in July on machine guns, while officers and chief petty officers take leadership and tactical skills courses. Upon completion of the month-long training, the squadron enters the second phase of their training at Special Missions Training Center Camp Lejeune and are taught skills to operate small boats.

"The third phase of our training," said Guarini, "will involve the headquarters element. With the three separate detachments, we’ll go through a FEP (final evaluation problem) exercise to certify our command for deployment."

RIVRON 1 is scheduled to deploy to the Middle East in 2007. Guarini said the squadron is excited to make naval history.

"I don’t have to do anything to keep morale high," said Guarini. "The people are excited to be a brand new organization. They’re plankowners of the very first Riverine Group of the 21st century."

"It’s one big team, and we are proud to be U.S. Navy Riverines," he added.