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A Navy corpsman drags a Marine who sustained a simulated injury to safety to provide first-aid during a counter insurgency exercise at the Combat Center’s Range 215, Nov. 18th, 2013.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Charles Santamaria

‘Dark Horse’ conducts counter insurgency exercise on Range 215

18 Nov 2013 | Lance Cpl. Charles Santamaria

A Muslim prayer echoed through the streets as platoons of Marines began to advance through the outskirts of town. Their objective could only be reached by using streets riddled with hidden improvised explosive devices, unidentified vehicles and hostile insurgents waiting to catch them off-guard.

Marines and sailors with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, stationed out of Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton Calif. conducted a counter insurgency exercise at Range 215, Nov. 18, 2013. Their mission was to clear the route to their destination and establish a patrol base in the town.

The exercise consisted of a simulated city inhabited by a hostile terrorist group named “The Jaf” with role-players portraying the population and insurgents. The unit, alongside translators, advanced to several objectives within different sectors of the town to establish control points and begin patrols. Obstacles within the training environment challenged the unit’s progress.

“The exercise gives the Marines a chance to interact with locals and observe how they respond to our presence in country,” said Staff Sgt. Keith Harris, 2nd platoon sergeant, K Co., 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. “It shows them how to handle large crowds, riots, and operational patrol bases in high-risk sectors.”

The role-players, who populated the town, became an obstacle for 3/5. Squads equipped with translators acting as afghan police were able to communicate with the locals and better diffuse situations that arose during the exercise.

“Terrorists in country want to be hard targets,” Harris said. “They can blend into the crowds and it shows the Marines the importance of a translator and how working with Afghan police can help with the people by showing a joint effort.”

Combat Center ranges served as a useful training tool to put the unit in a combat-ready mindset by simulating events that may occur in combat settings.

“The terrain made the training better by making the M.O.U.T. town harder to navigate,” said Lance Cpl. Steven Quiroz, team leader, K. Co. 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. “Maneuvering around buildings, alleyways, and IEDs, while maintaining awareness of my team, was also good training.”

The exercise is part of 3/5’s preparation to assume their role as the Battalion Landing Team for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in spring of 2014.

“The ranges here on Twentynine Palms are close to real-life scenarios that you would maneuver through in a real attack,” Harris said. “It gives the platoon the opportunity to get evaluated in the most realistic training possible and that’s really valuable.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms