MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
More than 200 Marines with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines’ Company K, set out from Camp Wilson to Range 215 here Sept. 18 to conduct a week’s worth of urban warfare training.
The training is part of their month long Afghanistan-based Mojave Viper, which fulfills the battalion’s pre-deployment requirements for their upcoming tour.
The Marines set up in forward-operating bases, which they lived in and operated out of during the week long UWT, surrounding the range’s mock Afghan village, Sara Kowt — complete with homes, market area and two mosques.
The training kicked off with classes given by Mojave Viper instructors from Tactical Training Exercise Control Group, known as Coyotes. The classes refresh the Marines on basics of military operations on urban terrain, such as clearing rooms, hallways and stairs, urban movements and reactions to small-arms fire.
“The purpose of all this training is a fine tuning, it’s our final phase of training, our last check in the box before we head to Afghanistan,” said 1st Lt. Adam Felde, the Weapons Platoon commander with Company K. “Our Marines have seen this stuff before and we have to just stick to the basic skills. Some of these things can become very complex, but we just have to make it as simple as possible, allowing the Marines to establish or just re-affirm the standard operating procedures we’ve been working on.”
Once the classes were finished, the Marines moved onto the practical application portions of the training that rely heavily on realism, utilizing aspects such as firing weapons with blanks, simulated IED explosions and actual Afghan role player interactions.
During the main portion of the training, platoons had to patrol a hostile area of the town with each squad receiving their own Afghan interpreter and Afghan National Army soldier to accompany them on their route. They talked and interacted with community members, elders and Afghan National Police and reacted to hostile fire by Taliban forces.
Cpl. Joseph Budrow, a squad leader with Weapons Platoon said having actual Afghans play their roles during the training makes all the difference in the world in preparing the Marines for their tour.
“It’s just outstanding,” said Budrow, who has deployed to Iraq three times. “It makes our intent for this range exactly what our intent will be in country, which is to get information from the local populace and treat them with the respect and dignity that they deserve. And from there hopefully establish a relationship with them to where they feel trustworthy enough to give us information so we can do our jobs and get rid of the bad guys that are causing them harm.”
The Marines also had to conduct a first responder drill, in which each squad goes through a scenario of being the first ones on the scene of a mock explosion that causes several realistic and highly graphic casualties.
“The first responder class was really good, realistic training,” Felde said. “We had Marines wounded, one with his legs completely blown off, and a few civilian casualties as well. At that point we focused on the squad taking tactical control – establishing security, talking to higher command, calling in the casualty evacuation and our senior corpsman took control of the situation. The Marines performed amazingly, despite the intense circumstances.”
Capt. Sven Gosnell, the Company K commander, said that even though they most likely won’t be using these skills as much as they would in the urban density of Iraq, they are still just as important to have.
“It’s important that we maintain these key skill sets even for Afghanistan,” he said. “We may be fighting through a desert or mountainous environment and then have to go straight into a village and have to be able to provide security and civil affairs operations. So it is very important to bring all this training together.”
Gosnell said his Marines will have no problem utilizing all the skills they’ve honed and handling any objective thrown at them.
“They’ve preformed excellently,” he explained. “I have no doubt in their capabilities, from the individual Marine’s to the collective skills in the platoon and squad level. The Marines have been refining those skills and they are phenomenal.”