Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
With the last training day approaching in the first running of the Integrated Training Exercise, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, started their Company Stability Operations / Humanitarian Assistance training package Tuesday at the Combat Center’s Range 220.
The company provided security and humanitarian assistance to a village in the fictional land of Azanistan
“Today we’re running a non-combatant evacuation operation,” said Cpl. Benjamin Miller, machine gun section leader. “We’re passing out food, water, medical supplies and medical treatment to the town and the refugees, to whoever needs it.”
Miller, 24, native of Los Angeles, has been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines. His battalion is scheduled to deploy as the battalion landing team of a Marine Expeditionary Unit in late spring. It will mark Miller’s fourth deployment as a Marine, two of which will have been on a MEU.
“This training is a lot more focused for the MEU as compared to my last MEU training,” said Miller. “It gets the Marines in the mindset of what they’re going to do out there on the MEU.”
The 28-day ITX focuses on the tactical application of combined-arms maneuver warfare during global contingency operations, but it includes training events that are relevant to any MAGTF expeditionary operation, such as those tasked to a MEU. Training in stability operations is still incorporated for units bound for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and others that might be asked to conduct such operations. This training includes humanitarian assistance packages, non-combatant evacuation operations and providing security to populated areas.
“It’s important to have a solid foundation,” said Capt. Travis W. Bowden, company commander. “ITX is a good first exposure and it’s going to set us up well for a company with the MEU deployment and the type of tasks that will be assigned.”
The Combat Center’s unique training ranges and assessment staff provide unparalleled opportunities to Marines that come here.
“The training has been great,” said Pfc. Brian Holbert, infantryman. “This is the first time that we have actually been able to get training inside a MOUT town of this caliber. Back in Camp Pendleton, we work with line tape on the ground to practice room clearing. That doesn’t compare at all to the training here.”
Support personnel added to the realism of the scenario by playing the part of local villagers, police forces, journalists and representatives from the United Nations and various non-governmental organizations.
“It’s kind of a hard transition from all kinetic, bomb dropping, large scale exercises to stability operations,” said Bowden. “On top of that, dealing with the NGOs, Department of State, the UN and other role players, it’s a different dynamic.”
For several of the Marines with previous deployments under their belts, the realistic training sparked memories of past experiences.
“I was in an actual riot out in Iraq,” said Miller. “Today, the role players were trying to push the door down so the rioters could get in. Those riots were pretty realistic and brought me back to Iraq.”
At the conclusion of their training, the Marines of 2/4 will begin a Special Operations Training Group package before joining up with the other units assigned to deploy with the 31st MEU later this year.