ARMY NATIONAL TRAINING CENTER FORT IRWIN, Calif. --
A Marine Corps convoy rolls down a street on its way to a rendezvous with another unit. Everything seems normal. The sound of music and children can be heard as neighborhood residents go about their daily routines. Out of nowhere, a deafening explosion hurls the community into chaos and the convoy into action. However, this isn’t Iraq or Afghanistan, it’s the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
This scenario was played out for the reserve Marines and sailors from Company E, 4th Light Armored Recon- naissance Battalion during a platoon-level casualty evacuation exercise at NTC’s Medina Wasl urban training site Jan. 20.
Each platoon’s mission during the exercise was to enter a town and provide security for a Military Training Team due to a high concentration of insurgents in the area. As they entered the city, a simulated improvised explosive device detonated, wounding the MTT team as well as some Iraqi civilians.
After the scene was set by the small detonation, the Marines’ and sailors’ objective quickly changed from providing security to providing first-responder medical attention, and extracting the dead and wounded while simultaneously securing the area. Random enemy gunfire and pyrotechnic explosions kept the Marines on their toes as they attempted to evacuate the area as quickly as possible.
“It was definitely the most diverse training I’ve ever experienced,” said Lance Cpl. Mark Debruyne, rifleman, Company E, 4th LAR. “Most of us haven’t deployed and, as we are a reserve unit, we rarely get the opportunity to experience training like this.”
The Gowand, N.Y., native also said the training showed him just how fast a situation can take a turn for the worse.
At times the Marines and sailors would become too focused on assisting the wounded, and their communication skills were put to the test. The longer it took the platoons to get each casualty into their Light Armored Vehicles, the more danger they put themselves in with the hostile insurgents.
“We got hit hard out there today,” explained 2nd Lt. Joe Hodges, platoon commander, Company E, 4th LAR. “You really have to have tough skin and learn from your mistakes. That’s why we train.”
Medina Wasl gave the reservists an optimum training location, added Hodges, a Blair, S.C., native.
“The town looked like an Iraqi town,” he said. “With all the role players and pyrotechnics, you felt like you were actually there. That degree of realism made this training even better.”
Also known by their call sign “Grapplers,” Company E, 4th LAR is currently attached to the Combat Center’s 3rd LAR, and is scheduled to deploy with the Wolfpack this spring.
For more news, photos and information on 3rd LAR’s training at Fort Irwin, visit http://www.marines.mil.