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Marines with 3rd Marine Regiment talk to role players as an aggressive crowd masses outside their Forward Operating Base during a mass casualty exercise at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., Oct. 7, 2010. ::r::::n::

Photo by Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt

Forward Operating Base reacts to mass casualty

7 Oct 2010 | Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt

A crowd of Afghan role-players gathered outside of 3rd Marine Regiment’s forward operating base, on Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., Oct. 7, 2010, to protest U.S. occupation and involvement in Afghanistan.

The Marines in the FOB were challenged with determining which of the protestors were hostile, and how they could neutralize them without harming innocent bystanders.

“Intel told us this morning that we would be operating in a hostile environment,” said Cpl. Travis Hamrick a fire team leader with 3rd Marine Regiment from Gaffney, S.C., a heads up that undoubtedly helped them keep their bearing during the exercise, he said.

The chants grew louder as the leader of the protestors approached the Marines standing guard at the FOB to address their grievances.

“They came up, and tried to lure us out of our positions,” Hamrick said, “but instead of taking the bait we cordoned off the area.”

The quick reaction force, prepared since hearing from intelligence that morning, sprung into action to neutralize the hostile role players, who were yelling and spitting at the service members standing guard.

“During the protest, we noticed some guys holding stuff beneath their clothing,” said Lance Cpl. Samnang Chang, a radio technician with 3rd Marine Regiment, from Fall River, Mass. “I knew something was going to happen, I was just waiting for it.”

That’s when a Marine standing security saw one of the role players reach inside his garbs, and called for the QRF to “Get back!”

Marines posting security took heed of the warning and withdrew into the forward operating base just moments before the insurgent detonated a simulated improvised explosive device in the middle of the crowd leaving three in the crowd notionally dead and 6 others wounded.

“There was blood and guts everywhere,” Hamrick said, commenting on the realistic makeup and blood the victims wore.

The QRF rushed to set up security for the casualties and assessed their wounds, taking care of the victims from most life threatening to least.

The exercise was mostly a success, Hamrick said. Although the reaction force responded rapidly and effectively, the Marines knew it probably wouldn’t end there.

“Because of the attack they might become more violent in the next few hours, so now we are looking for secondary attacks,” he said.

Morris recalled similar real-world scenarios he observed while deployed in Iraq. “They’ll hit us with an IED on one side and then a vehicle born improvised explosive will come from the other direction.”

The mass casualty exercise is one of the last pieces of training for the Marines of 3rd Marine Regiment as they prepare to return to Hawaii.

“We’ve had a lot of diverse training here, and the Marines had a good time with it and are better prepared because of it,” Morris said.

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