MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
based group which has concentrated its efforts toward educating America about worldwide current events since 1921, toured the Combat Center March 12, 2008, to learn more about the capabilities of the installation and the Marine Corps.
Col. Paul E. Greenwood, CFR Marine Corps Fellow, and other prominent CFR members were given the opportunity to view several of the installation’s training facilities to see how efficient the Marine Corps has become in its training endeavors.
To display the level and progression of Marine Corps training, the attending members of CFR were led to Combat Center Range 215 to observe 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, a Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.–based battalion, undergo the final exercise [FINEX] of the 30-day pre-deployment training package known as Mojave Viper.
The touring CFR members were first introduced to how a forward operating base works. There, the party was shown how a battalion aid station, a combat operations center and a detention center function.
“The very first step in the detention process is medical screening,” said Capt. Andrew M. Wallace, Tactical Training Exercise Control Group operational law instructor and staff judge advocate, while explaining the role of the detention center. “We have to ensure detainees have no medical problems that require immediate attention, whether it be a gunshot wound or tuberculosis.”
Wallace went into detail about the detention process, citing how much work is involved as well as the importance of medical documentation and proper treatment of prisoners.
While at Range 215, the CFR party was able to walk the streets of Wadi al Sahara, one of two mock Iraqi towns set up at the range, to get a feel for the training environment Marines and sailors going through Mojave Viper experience while they are not at the FOB.
During CFR’s stroll through Wadi al Sahara, Lt. Col. Mark D. Dietz, TTECG operations officer, and Maj. Scott M. Conway, Urban Warfare Training Section deputy officer-in-charge, explained in full detail the different phases of Mojave Viper training to the group.
“Once they’ve completed all their lane training and mission rehearsals, they enter their final exercise,” said Conway a Myrtle Creek, Ore., native. “When they arrive, we give them a partial picture to the overall situation in the towns. From there, they are able to execute 24/7 counterinsurgency operations as they see fit.”
Conway added that everything they do during their final exercise is scrutinized by the instructors and counts as part of the unit’s overall grade.
The CFR group also had the opportunity to meet with the role-playing mayor of Wadi al Sahara at his home on the edge of the town. The mayor gave them an in-depth understanding to the situations occurring in the mock town to help them grasp a better understanding of what Marine Corps units encounter during the tenure of the FINEX.
After the meeting with the mayor and a Meal, Ready-to-Eat lunch with the Marines and sailors of 2/2 at FOB 3, CFR proceeded to the Expeditionary Airfield to witness the capabilities of Marine Corps air assets and support elements aboard the Combat Center.
Capt. John Bussard, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 airfield company commander, provided CFR with information about how the EAF operates. The Ringoes, N.J., native, explained the seemingly primitive nature of the EAF is designed to simulate an airfield similar to those used in Iraq.
Following the EAF visit, the group was given a chance to experience Marine Corps marksmanship training with a hands-on approach. At the Marksmanship Training Unit, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Fredrick T. Keeney, MTU range officer, spoke to the CFR representatives about the fundamentals of marksmanship, the rifle qualification scoring system and the numerous ranges MTU manages.
“The bottom line of Marine Corps marksmanship is this – one shot, one kill,” said Keeney, a Spring Hill, Kan., native. “Every time a Marine presses that trigger, someone dies. That’s just what we do and that’s what we’re here to teach.”
MTU provided the CFR with a chance to fire a variety of weapons used by the Marine Corps in the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer. The group seemed to enjoy the opportunity to fire the M240 medium machine guns, M249 Squad Automatic Weapons and the M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun at simulated enemy troops and vehicles.
At the end of the tour, everyone from CFR was impressed with the high standards and steady progression of training Combat Center Marines undergo daily.
“I thought the Mojave Viper training was outstanding,” said Greenwood. “Over the past couple of years, it’s really come a long way in preparing Marines for what they are going to see in Iraq.
“This was a great opportunity today for the members of the Council on Foreign Relations to see how the Marine Corps is preparing Marines and sailors for deployments to Iraq,” added the Quantico, Va., native. “That’s really what this whole trip was about.”
Other CFR members expressed similar feelings toward what they witnessed throughout the duration of the tour. Gage McAfee, General Electric Asia Pacific Capital managing director and Vietnam veteran, explained how this training is similar to training he went through before deploying to Vietnam.
“It’s real easy to go in and kill all the bad guys,” said the New York, native. “What’s challenging is the aftermath; setting up patrols, searches, establishing relations with the people, etc.
“In Vietnam, we had pretty similar training,” added McAfee. There was a lot to learn about the language and culture of the Vietnamese people. We also had a lot of weapons training. It was effective then and it continues to be effective today.”
After the tour of the Combat Center, the CFR members lifted off from Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field to their next destination, National Training Center Fort Irwin, Calif. They will continue to tour training installations in order to achieve a better understanding of the Marine Corps’ role in foreign relations.
For more information regarding CFR, you can log on tohttp://www.cfr.org to read about their exploits in providing America with information from around the globe.