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Sgt. Ramon Wells, Police Transition Team 3, coordinates casualty evacuations through his radio after insurgent role players attacked and wounded two civilians during the Advisor Training Group military readiness exercise at Combat Center Range 220A March 7, 2008. Wells, a Yonkers, N.Y., native, is originally assigned to 2nd Marine Division at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Nicholas M. Dunn

ATG teaches advisors to ‘become shadows on a cloudy day’

7 Mar 2008 | Lance Cpl. Nicholas M. Dunn

The Advisor Training Group is teaching Marines and sailors how to effectively train foreign security forces and military units to stand on their own while at the same time, learning their languages and cultures.

 According to ATG’s mission statement, the purpose of ATG is to train Marine Corps advisor teams to advise, mentor, and train foreign military, police, and border units in operational techniques and procedures to combat terrorism and counterinsurgency.

 Advisor teams are made up of groups of Marines and sailors who deploy to foreign countries and embed with their military. Each Marine or sailor is tasked with specific roles in that unit, and while deployed, they live and fight alongside the foreign military units they are assigned to train.

 “The role of an advisor is mostly non-kinetic,” said Lt. Col. Richard Warmbold, ATG operations officer and Park City, Utah, native. “It’s all about establishing rapport and building relationships. These Marines are learning how to let someone else take point.”

 After the advisor teams are formed, they undergo a 19-day training evolution to help them learn to let go of the reins and play the instructor role. The training also provides language and cultural training and refreshes the advisor teams on many aspects of combat, including motorized operations, communications, field medicine and improvised explosive devices.

 The training wraps up with a three-day military readiness exercise, which takes place at Combat Center Range 220A, designed to assess and evaluate what the teams learned during the training.

 “One of the first things the teams do here is a ‘meet and greet’ with the IPs [Iraqi Police] and IA [Iraqi Army] to learn about the town and the situations they may encounter,” said Staff Sgt. James Robertson, ATG instructor and liaison officer. “The mood set here by the role players is generally friendly, but still uncertain. It’s designed to mimic a typical Iraqi town.”

 During the meeting between Police Training Team 3, an advisor team based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., and the Iraqi Police chief March 7, 2008, the police compound was bombarded with several simulated mortar rounds. PTT 3 and the Iraqi Police moved quickly to ensure no military, police or civilian personnel had been killed or wounded in the brief attack.

 “For this type of training, we are evaluating the reactions of the teams to combat situations,” explained Robertson. “We want to see how they integrate the Iraqis as well and the actions the Marines take in combat.”

 According to another portion of their mission statement, part of ATG’s philosophy is the most effective advisor is like a shadow on a mostly cloudy day, meaning the advisor is neither seen nor heard.

 For instance, instead of taking charge of the Iraqi Police during and after the mortar attack, the advisor will show the Iraqis how to take proper action instead.

 The best way to become and advisor, not a leader, is for the teams to build a strong relationship with their foreign counterparts, said Robertson. Establishing rapport and instilling a sense of friendship – or even brotherhood – between the advisors and the foreign military is key. The Iraqis are more apt to listen to and heed advice, rather than obey orders barked at them by a Marine in an advisor role.

 During the MRX, part of the role players’ job is to help the advisor teams achieve a better understanding of their mission while they are deployed. Bonding with them and learning from them is the an advisor’s first step toward success.

 “This is good training for the Marines to learn how to work with the people of Iraq,” said Frank Mikho, an Iraqi language interpreter role player at Combat Center Range 220A. “Sometimes it’s hard for Marines to go to a different country and learn the language and culture.

 “We teach them how to talk to people, shake hands and build a relationship,” added the San Diego native. “They make mistakes here, but it’s better to learn from those mistakes now than to make them over in Iraq.”

 Assaad Mohamed, Iraqi Police chief role player at Combat Center Range 220A, said he feels the more he helps train Marine Corps advisor teams, the safer Iraq will become because of the knowledge the Marines will have while they are there.

 “This training is very important,” said Mikho. “I wish every Marine could go through this training before they go to Iraq.”

 The Marines and sailors of the advisor teams also understand the value of the training they go through.

 “This is the best pre-deployment training I’ve had,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class David Tinoco, PTT 3 corpsman. “I’ve been to Iraq before, and this training is dead-on. All the istructors are very knowledgeable and are able to pass that knowledge on to us.

 “It gives those who haven’t deployed before a chance to get the full experience of what it’s going to be like for us over there,” he added. “What we’re doing now is putting our role over there into perspective.”

 This will be Tinoco’s second deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although currently a member of an advisor team, the San José, Calif., native is originally assigned to Beaufort Naval Hospital at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C.

 ATG continues to support the Marine Corps by training and preparing advisor teams to pass their knowledge along to foreign military personnel.

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