WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. – Under a cloudless afternoon sky, Soldiers and Marines assaulted a mock city in a joint operation during Network Integration Evaluation 14.2, May 12.
Opposing Forces did their best to maintain control of the simulated city Zambraniyah from an invading force of 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment and 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines.
“Today we are getting ready to drive up to the city of Zambraniyah and get rid of all the bad guys,” said Sgt. First Class Joseph Russell, acting First Sergeant in Company A, 1st Bn., 6th Inf. Regt. “During this operation we will have Marines attached to our battalion and together we will clear the objective. It’ll be a great experience for our guys.”
Russell and the rest of the 1-6 Inf. Regt., Soldiers checked their radios and prepared their vehicles, lining them in preparation for the attack. The native of Seattle, Washington, has deployed to Iraq twice and said he has seen some of the equipment being evaluated during the NIE.
“I wish I’d had some of that equipment when I deployed,” said Russell. “As long as we can get a good product out to the Soldiers, something that is functional they can implement easily into their operations… that is a great thing.”
Meanwhile in Zambrahiyah, Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, 2HBCT, 1AD, playing the role of the OPFOR, looked out of windows and through binoculars on rooftops, dressed in desert combat uniforms (DCU), sunglasses and baseball caps, looking for any sign of the enemy.
“We will do whatever it takes to keep the U.S. from taking our capital. We will hit them with improvised explosive devices, rocket propelled grenades and we have booby traps all throughout the buildings. I will be using a 50. Caliber machine gun with more than 700 rounds,” said Cpl. Jerry Bradley, in character as OPFOR, and an infantryman assigned to 1-35 Armor Regt. “Our goal is to inflict as many casualties as possible to make their morale go down and have them retreat out of our village and leave us alone,” said Bradley.
Bradley kept in constant communication with the rest of OPFOR as they prepared for the upcoming battle. A trail of dust on the horizon created by 1-6th’s Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and Bradley armored fighting vehicles. Right next to them were U.S. Marine Corps Assault Amphibious Vehicles roaring towards their direction.
This is Bradley’s third time participating in NIE. During this rotation, the native of Savannah Georgia, will serve as OPFOR. He said being OPFOR is fun because he gets to see the enemy’s point of view during training.
Bradley said the OPFOR have been pushed back to the capital and the attack on Zambraniyah is the biggest fight of NIE.
“This is what it all has led up to; all the training we’ve had throughout the STX (situational training exercise) lanes and the last week of maneuvers, it all ends up here,” said Bradley. “We get to see what maneuvers work and what we can change to make things better,” said Bradley.
The mock village is more than 5 square city blocks with roundabouts, a bridge and buildings in various shapes and sizes for OPFOR to hide in. Actors played the part of civilians, walking up and down the streets as OPFOR patrolled the streets in two armored personnel carriers.
The armored vehicles approached Zambrahiyah and preceded to flank the simulated city from three sides, something the enemy did not anticipate. Immediately the sound of heavy machine gun and small arms fire echoed through the streets. An OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter flew above the small town providing intelligence for the troops on the ground.
Soldiers and Marines disembarked the armored vehicles and worked side by side to eliminate the enemy as they continued moving forward. They took turns clearing every room in the buildings during the operation while taking indirect and direct fire from the enemy’s set-in positions.
The Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, gear both sides wore during the attack makes a loud beeping noise when one is hit. It uses lasers and blank cartridges in the weapons to simulate actual battle. It allowed for troops on both sides to “suffer casualties” but remain completely safe.
While OPFOR put up a good fight, in the end the U.S. troops were able to successfully defeat their opponents.
“Today we conducted a joint clearing operation with the Army,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Scott Mahaffey, assigned 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. “Getting to work with the Army is something we would do in combat. It’s best to train like this so we could be ready if we were to deploy,” said Mahaffey.
Working with another branch of the military, communication could be an issue due to different acronyms and terminology each one uses, but they quickly adapted and overcame this challenge according to Mahaffey. For some Marines it was the first time working with Soldiers and vice versa.
“Cross communication with our brothers in the Army is vital to make sure we are all on the same page to accomplish the mission,” said Mahaffey.
The platoon leader said the combat training engagements during NIE are good training. As hot weather and tough conditions really tested his Marines… but it all paid off in the end.
The commander of the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, Lt. Col. Matthew Brown, also participated in the combat training engagement. He added that NIE is a good opportunity for his more than 800 Soldiers, called the “Regulars,” to hone their skills in difficult environments for any challenges they may face in the future.
“My force, with tanks and mechanized infantry, in this type of maneuver space… this is as good as it gets,” said Brown.
The native of Newtown, Pa., said it was phenomenal to work with Marines and both had to quickly learn how to work together.
“We met each other 48 hours ago and together we cleared through a fairly complex objective,” said Brown.
Following the attack on Zambrahiyah, Brown said he felt confident in his Soldiers’ capabilities.
“The training opportunities here [at NIE], at the platoon or battalion level are absolutely unmatched,” said Brown.