(e.g. yourname@email.com)

Forgot Password?

    Or login with Facebook

    SPMAGTF: Expect the Best, Train for the Worst

    MAGTF Embassy Reinforcement Exercise

    Photo By Cynthia McIntyre | A Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command 15.2...... read more read more



    Story by Keith Hayes and Cynthia McIntyre

    Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

    BARSTOW, Calif. - Outside of the American Embassy a man lies dead in the street, killed and dumped by members of a roiling mob as a graphic threat to others who would collaborate with the hated westerners. Another man is savagely beaten by the protestors for even approaching the structure. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device had already blown up in the area while a second is diffused by embassy personnel. Forty-five American embassy personnel shelter inside the compound protected by host country embassy guards, while agitators clamor for their heads.

    And all this happened on Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., the week of Feb. 10.

    According to Gunnery Sgt. Michael Voorhees, MCLBB's S-3 operations chief, the Nebo base doesn't see much of this type of training, complete with two V-22 Osprey aircraft bringing in Marine "reinforcements" and evacuating "embassy" personnel in front of the base commissary. The Ospreys were assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 (VMM-165), out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

    Such training, said Voorhees, is usually done in "combat towns" on bases or in an abandoned building at Camp Pendleton. He said the successful exercise could open the door for other units who want to expand their training scenarios.

    But the location in Barstow was the point, said 1st Lt. Nicholas Leeds, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division who commented during the final stages of the embassy reinforcement exercise, conducted by the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command 15.2.

    "It's a new training area," Leeds said of Barstow. "It's not a regular base that we visit. When we land, we're in an area that we're not used to, it adds to that realism."

    "We've done smaller levels of this type of training at Twentynine Palms," explained Leeds, which is where the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center is based, "but something of this scale is definitely a first. It involves our entire regiment."

    Marines participating in the exercise came from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, both in Southern California. Those who were not obtaining their certification prior to upcoming deployment participated as role-players. Some played foreign national embassy guards stationed outside the "wall," some were protestors, and some were victims.

    Several of the "protestors" were Americans of Iraqi descent, hired by Glacier Technological Solutions, a contractor that provides culturally authentic role-players for military exercises. Originally from Iraq, they lend realism to situations the Marines might find themselves in, and provide cultural sensitivity training to avoid potentially offensive situations that could escalate.

    Cpl. Curtis Maxson, 1st Supply Battalion, Camp Pendleton was dressed as an embassy guard from the unnamed Middle Eastern country, along with Cpl. Earl Coy, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, from Camp Pendleton. For authenticity, they were not allowed to speak English to the Marine guards. Cradling an AK-47, Maxson said playing such a role was an eye-opening experience. While the actors were coached beforehand, the Marines were not told what to expect. One of the scenarios included a spontaneous funeral procession for a Muslim man killed outside the embassy, complete with chanting, wailing and rifle fire.

    "It's fun," said Maxson, who is from Centerville, Ohio. "We ran through different scenarios with the Marines. I learned about different countries and customs, like shooting weapons at funerals, which is strange to us."

    This was Coy's second role-playing exercise, the first being with the Marines in Washington, D.C., three years ago. He said during the current exercise's drive-by scenario, two Middle Eastern men wearing turbans shot them "dead." And during a snatch-and-grab scenario, an American attempting to get into the embassy was kidnapped by two men, killed off-site, and his body dumped.

    "We brought him inside (the embassy wall) to the Marine guards," said Coy.

    "We still have his passport," said Maxson.

    Lance Cpl. Stephen Bardo, from Co. I, 3rd Bn., 7th Marines, in Twentynine Palms, was one of the Marines in training standing guard outside the embassy. He held a formidable M27 IAR (Infantry Automatic Rifle), and listened to the field radio about a drive-by shooting that just occurred outside their position.

    "You have permission to engage the Silverado," said the radio voice. A few minutes later, the car driver shot a rifle toward the Marines, who took firing positions behind trees or metal barricades.

    Bardo was one of the reinforcements who came in on one of the V-22 Ospreys two days earlier. "It surprised me at how fast it was able to pick up and move."

    1st Lt. Leeds said of the Osprey, "It's fast and it can go far, and that's why we'll be using it. It provides us that long-range capability so we don't have to be right next to the threat. We can get in there quick, land, and take care of what we need to."

    Leeds said, "The purpose of the exercise is to prepare the Marines for one of the many options that will possibly have to do with our deployment, which is embassy reinforcement. In the Middle East right now, there is a lot of kinetic activity (various levels of violence), so as a crisis response force, embassy reinforcement is one of the options that is a possibility for us."

    "It's been a great learning experience," continued Leeds. "As infantrymen, it's a little different, dealing with state department officials, and dealing with a more civilian type threat rather than a uniformed enemy."

    Leeds praised his team, "The most exciting thing for me is being able to see the Marines operate. They really took to this mission. It's not within their usual skillset, but they maintained a positive attitude and maintained a very aggressive approach to the training, trying to make the most of it. This is one of the last few events that we'll have before we actually deploy. We're gathering all the information, gathering any sort of lessons and tips that we possibly can."

    The Marine Air-Ground Task Force is composed of four core elements which work together to accomplish a specific mission: Command, ground combat, aviation, and logistics.



    Date Taken: 02.12.2015
    Date Posted: 02.20.2015 14:54
    Story ID: 155036
    Location: BARSTOW, CA, US 
    Hometown: CENTERVILLE, OH, US
    Hometown: HAVRE, MT, US

    Web Views: 96
    Downloads: 0
    Podcast Hits: 0