MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The sound of weapons firing and incoming mortars filled the city streets. Amidst the chaos stood a fire team of Marines stacked against the wall at the bottom of a stairwell. Uncertain of what was awaiting for them at the top, the Marine’s hearts raced as sweat dripped down their dirty faces. The second man in the stack counted down from three and the fire team turned the corner and charged up the stairs where it eliminated two enemy insurgents.
This was the scene as Marines with Alpha Company, The Basic School, conducted a training exercise on military operations in urban terrain at Camp Barrett, March 27.
“It takes a lot to plan an offensive attack in an urban city,” said 2nd Lt. Joseph King, platoon commander for this exercise. “You have to know where the enemy is, how many there are and the most effective way of taking them out.”
Fifth platoon was given the objective of clearing and securing the buildings of all enemy insurgents. The building would then be used to set up communications and help advance operations.
As platoon commander, King developed a plan for the best way to infiltrate the city.
“Given the information at hand from my leader’s recon, I developed avenues of approach and directed my machine gunners where they would be most effective,” King said after briefing his platoon.
King’s plan was straightforward, using the high explosives his squad had, he would weaken the enemy’s defensive positions and punch through to the first set of buildings.
Once the house was secure, the fire team would wave a glow strap out the window to signal to the next fire team that the house was secure. They would then pop smoke grenades and provide covering fire for the incoming fire team.
They would continue to do this until all enemy insurgents were killed or captured, and the city secured.
The task proved harder than expected for 5th platoon, as they took heavy casualties and became combat-ineffective.
“Unfortunately some of my guys, including me, got caught up in the heat of the moment,” King said. “There were a few times where we went gung-ho and didn’t think it through. That’s what cost us a lot of guys.”
Defending its position 3rd platoon, Alpha Company, had a hard time fending off 5th platoon’s attack.
“There’s a lot going on at the same time,” said 2nd Lt. Robert Mortenson, a machine gunner, 3rd platoon, Alpha Company, TBS. “You never know what’s in the next room or around the corner.”
Although 5th platoon was not successful in completing its mission, there were plenty of lessons learned.
“Even though it wasn’t real combat, experiencing that fog of war here makes me better,” Mortensen said.
With military battles moving away from the traditional battlefield and into urban terrain, The Marine Corps will continue to train its Marines for what tomorrow has in store.