News: 31st MEU ground forces begin talks with local populace
Story by Cpl. Codey Underwood
SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Queensland, Australia – Outside a local Australian village, a large group of Marines emerge from the tree line. They quickly set up a circle of security while the leaders of the village come forward to greet them. The Marines’ mission is to identify the needs and wants of the people.
Marines and Sailors with Company E., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, met with the leaders of a notional village as a part of Talisman Saber 13 here, July 22.
The simulated village, occupied by Australian role players for the scenario, adds to the realism of the exercise. During an actual operation, like those conducted recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marines would need to interact with the local populace.
“The scenario that the civilians were playing within the village gave the training a realistic element that only another human could give,” said Cpl. Brent S. Berven, a squad leader with Co. E., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of York, Penn. “Without this human element in the training, we wouldn’t gain real experience in interacting with civilians in a combat environment.”
The village consisted of more than 30 role players portraying many aspects of a normal town. The role players maintained a clinic, a police station, a city hall and a place of worship. Throughout the village were several key leaders who represented the people in the surrounding area. Interacting with these key leaders provides a wealth of information on how to best operate among and with the population.
“By talking to the local leaders, you are able to gather a hierarchy of needs and wants that apply to that village or town,” said Sgt. Miguel A. Lopez-Guillen, a military information support operations team leader with the 31st MEU and a native Santa Ana, Calif.
Sitting down with the village representatives for a lengthy discussion, Company E. was able to determine the amount of medical supplies, fresh water and food supply on hand.
“When we entered the encampment and started speaking with the villagers, we found that they were short basic medical supplies,” said Lt. Cmdr. Robert P. Chiarottin, the battalion surgeon for BLT 2/4, 31st MEU , and a native of Philadelphia, Penn. “Providing them with medical supplies is something that we would do in a real-life situation.”
After agreeing to provide the village with basic medical supplies in the near future, the Marines of Company E. departed the village on amicable terms with its leaders.
The engagement was one of many scenarios involved in Talisman Saber 13 that aim to provide the realistic and relevant training necessary to maintain regional security, peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region. The exercise also improves the Australian Defense Force and U.S. military’s ability to operate together as a combined task force.
The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region and is the only continuously forward deployed MEU.