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Officers with the California Highway Patrol mobile field force practice using smoke canisters, simulating using CS gas, during a training event at Range 200 Nov. 9, 2011.

Photo by Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

California Highway Patrol trains at Combat Center

21 Nov 2011 | Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Officers with the California Highway Patrol mobile field force practiced annual crowd dispersal at Range 200 Nov. 9, 2011, with the help of Combat Center personnel.

The CHP chose the Combat Center for their annual training because of the unique facilities available.

“This is the first time we have come aboard a Marine Corps facility,” said Officer Levi Miller, a mobile field force officer with the San Bernardino County. “We chose this place because a lot of other bases just have an open field for us to go, but it just isn’t realistic.

“This facility you have in the Marine Corps really fits what we need,” Miller added. “It will give the team a sense of what it will be like to hold down an intersection or move a crowd through buildings where people could hide and throw projectiles from.”

To help add more realism to the training, the CHP had volunteer officers and Marines with the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School and Provost Marshals Office Special Reaction Team act as agressors in the crowd.

“They threw Nerf balls and tennis balls at us to give our officers a sense of reality,” Miller said. “Hopefully that will remind them that their helmet shields need to be down and that in a real life scenario, a bottle or a rock could be thrown and cause serious damage.”

The officers donned all their gear for the training and reviewed their formations for the multiple scenarios scheduled for the day.

“We have three scenarios that we did where our role players simulated a riotous crowd,” Miller said. “We used our formations and techniques to separate the crowd into smaller groups. If we can get a crowd separated or pick out a leader or someone who is inciting the crowd, we will separate them from the crowd. Whatever we can do to disperse the crowd.”

As the scenarios progressed the agressors became more aggressive and the officers began practicing using smoke canisters, instead of CS gas, and 37mm rubber pellets.

“(The 37mm rubber pellets) are pretty powerful,” said CHP Sgt. Bill Green, field sergeant with the Morongo Basin Office. “One took me in the hip and it took me down.”

During the exercise, some of the officers worked closely with the Marine volunteers and were impressed by their performance.

“The Marines were highly motivated and worked well with our own volunteers to provide a sensible amount of resistance during the scenarios,” said Officer Mario Lopez, mobile field force officer with the San Bernardino County CHP.

After every scenario, the officers held a debrief on their performances.

“We went through the scenario and we evaluate what happened,” Green said. “(We went over) what went right, what went wrong, some things we can do to improve both communication and tactics, and then we might do the scenario again. It is just a matter of improving what we do.

“When you make mistakes here, it’s just here. When you make them in the field, it costs the state money and bad publicity, so we are trying to nip that in the bud.”

Once the CHP finished their training, they thanked the Marines for all their assistance and performed a final debrief of the day’s training before packing their gear and heading home.

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms