MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
An Army Special Forces team called on Marines to help them sharpen their skills aboard the Combat Center’s Combined-Arms Military Operations in Urban Terrain complex, the Corps’ largest and most realistic training facility March 12 through 25, 2011.
Infantry with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and non-infantry Marines from Headquarters Battalion, served as students for a team of Green Berets from a Special Forces Operational Detachment A, 5th Special Forces Group, as they practiced techniques they will use to train indigenous personnel and foreign military units in the event they are deployed overseas.
The training, part of the Joint National Training Capability program, brought Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces units together during an Enhanced Mojave Viper exercise to share tactics, techniques, and procedures and facilitates rapport-building before combat deployments around the world. EMV is the Corps’ premiere 28-day, combined arms, live-fire pre-deployment training exercise conducted aboard the Combat Center.
Given the strategic importance seamless service integration has on the joint battlefield, the combined training gave the Green Berets a first-hand view of how the Marine Corps operates in the battle space and gave the Marines a better understanding of the composition and mission of an Army SFODA.
This coordination and synchronization between Marines and Green Berets is crucial on the modern battlefield since both share integral roles, whether it involves intelligence gathering, foreign military training and advising or conducting combat operations, said the Special Forces detachment commander for the SFODA.
“Marine battalions act as battle space owners on the ground, and an SFODA operates within those same battle spaces,” said a Special Forces team sergeant, who requested to remain anonymous. “De-confliction with those battalions and battle space owners is critical to ensure both the battalion and ODA can achieve maximum effectiveness and that their efforts aren’t going counter to one another – which can happen if there's not cross-talk.”
As a battle space owner, a Marine commander in a combat zone would be responsible for maintaining security and knowing what military operations are taking place in his operating area. The presence of a Special Forces team would be a very important thing to know with that level of responsibility and given the fast pace of combat operations.
“There’s always a cultural difference between the Army and Marines and differences in standard operating procedures and acronyms. That’s one of the reasons we chose to train with Marines,” said the team sergeant.
Working with the Marines, specifically those who were not infantry by trade, also helped the Green Berets experience a situation similar to what they may encounter when working with foreign forces in combat zones.
“Our intention was to train differing levels of capabilities," said the detachment commander, “On a tactical side, the infantry Marines have more experience to draw from, but what I wanted to offer my detachment was the opportunity to deal with 20 personnel that had varying levels of experience, much like indigenous elements and operating forces that we will be working with in country.”
“If the Marines don’t understand something or if something my guys are telling them could be explained better, my guys are able to hone their training and teaching skills, which is a large part of what I need them to do overseas,” he added.
Throughout the 12-day training exercise, the Marines learned to properly maintain weapon systems and went through a combined 78,000 rounds of ammunition, shooting weapons like the M240 Medium Machine Gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, MK-19 40mm Grenade Launcher Machine Gun, MK-47 40mm Grenade Launcher Machine Gun, M2 Browning .50 Caliber Machine Gun, M4 Carbine, M203 40mm Grenade Launcher and the AT-4 Light Anti-Tank Weapon.
“For the infantry Marines, it gave them a chance to work through some of their gun drills and some of their [standard operating procedures],” said the team sergeant. “For the support guys, this was an opportunity to familiarize and truly get comfortable behind those weapon systems. So if they ever find themselves in a combat situation, they now have that level of comfort, ‘I know what I am doing and I can take on that threat.’”
The mixed group of Marines offered a realistic training group for the Special Forces detachment as they worked to bring everyone up from their shared rifleman background up to complex tactics involving close quarters combat in a live-fire environment. Given the short amount of training time available, the team’s members needed to be on their “A game.”
“At first, a couple of my guys were hesitant, but at the end of the day, what [an] ODA does is solve problems,” said the detachment commander. “About half of the Marines had never cleared a room, or building for that matter. But in the span of about 12 hours, we were able to go from dry and blank fire to conducting a live-fire shoot house with all 20 Marines,” he said.
“I think it’s those kinds of results that speak volumes of the Marines out here, their level of discipline and commitment. It speaks to my detachment members and their ability to properly train a lethal fighting force,” said the detachment commander.
According to several of the Green Berets, they were also very impressed with the expansive and detailed CAMOUT facility, and the value it could serve for future training opportunities.
“This facility is second to none that I've seen,” said the team sergeant. “The attention to detail is impressive,” he said, referring to a fully-furnished Afghan hotel that he saw as he explored a section of the 274-acre complex.
“Had I known about the size and features available at the CAMOUT, I would have recommended we bring multiple detachments here,” said the team sergeant.
The team also worked with a command team of 10 role players who spoke either Dari or Pashto and acted based on cultural norms, adding to the realism of the exercise.
The culminating point of the joint force’s training took place during the final stages of the exercise. The SFODA, Marines and 10 Afghan role players combined to conduct two raids in 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion’s areas of responsibility as the two units carried out their tasks in Enhanced Mojave Viper. This cross-boundary movement required the Special Forces team to properly communicate with the adjacent Marine units regarding intelligence, routes, danger areas and objectives.
“If we were to arrest an individual who happened to be a political figure or a religious figure within that community and detain him, the population within that battle space may have concerns or issues,” he said.
The Marine commander for that area would then have to deal with the repercussions. The team leader’s coordination keeps that commander from being blindsided so they are able to deal with any situation that might arise as a consequence of an SFODA operation, he said.
In sensitive situations like this, communication is crucial, he said."Maybe we won’t go after this guy just yet, but we are thinking about it. We may wait until the conditions are right to ensure we are achieving the effect that meets higher’s intent."
The key to making this coordination and communication more fluid in combat: training together during pre-deployment exercises such as EMV.
“Our primary intention in coming out to participate in EMV was to integrate SOF and Marine elements,” said the detachment commander. “This reduces confusion on the battlefield, saves lives and ultimately enhances mission accomplishment.