MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, conducted a Noncombatant Evacuation Operation Exercise on Lance Corporal Torrey L. Gray Field and Del Valle Field, Oct. 10, 2014.
The Marines of 3/3 were provided with air support from Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., during the exercise as part of their Assault Support Tactics Three Exercise during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course.
“In this scenario, we are currently in Twentynine Palms, Calif., which is a hostile country where the hostilities are beginning to escalate,” said Capt. Eric Sharpe, MAWTS-1. “At this point, we have American citizens at the embassy or consulate that need to be evacuated prior to full combat operations commencing.”
The exercise started at 6 p.m. and used MV22 Ospreys and CH53 helicopters to land and extract American civilians represented by Marines. From the air, fixed wing aircraft, such as F/A-18s, AV-8B Harriers, F-35Bs and EA-6B Prowlers provided security for evacuations and refueling.
“We will be evacuating live personnel, Marine role players. Those Marines will be notional [passengers],” Sharpe said. “Each Marine represents 20 American civilians.”
The NEO exercise simulated the evacuation of U.S. personnel from an embassy in a foreign country. Combat Center Marines took part in the exercise by representing both American personnel and natives of the "country." These role players portrayed both non-hostile and hostile civilians who applied pressure to the security of the landing zone.
“Today we are basically testing the security of the actual Marines that will be covered down on the [helicopter],” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Ashdown, Tactical Training Exercise Control Group. “We are seeing what they do when they have people harassing them like they would in country.”
The role players and the nature of the operation gave the Marines an opportunity to rehearse noncombatant situations.
“It is important because not everything the United States military will find themselves doing will be full-fledged combat operations,” Sharpe said. “We need to be prepared for a large spectrum of operations we may be expected to perform.”
The 4-hour exercise gave the Marines a chance to apply the tactics they may need when asked to conduct a Noncombatant Evacuation Operation in any part of the world.