Camp Lemonier, Djibouti -- The anti-terrorism force responsible for the security of Camp Lemonier and of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa fine-tuned their skills at Marine Corps Security Forces Training Command in Chesapeake, Va. before deploying here in November.
India Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, completed an abbreviated version of the five-week long MCSFTC course in just six-days, enabling their rotation here to relieve Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines.
"It is not the norm for a Marine Rifle Company to stand a three-month rotation as a security detail. That's why the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism) put us through security force training at Chesapeake before standing post in the Horn of Africa," according to Capt. Charles R. Cassidy, company commander. "At Camp Lemonier, we assumed the role of a Marine Security Force unit. The training we received at Chesapeake helped prepare our Marines for some of the unique challenges they would possibly face in this role."
Returning from combat with Task Force Tarawa in Operation Iraqi Freedom last June, India Company received orders from the 4th MEB (AT) to stand force protection at Camp Lemonier. This called for the rifle company to attend a course that trains Marines in all aspects of providing security.
The Marine Corps Security Force Battalion, one of the 4th MEB (AT)'s for highly specialized units, provides antiterrorism and physical security trained Marine Corps Security Force personnel to installations worldwide.
"We already had a baseline of the process every Marine gets at recruit training," said 1st Sgt. Donald Brazeal, company first sergeant. "Guard duty is guard duty. The 11 General Orders stay the same. It is post specific orders which makes them different, it is the Corps oldest mission."
In Chesapeake, India Co. was given a condensed training package that better prepared them for their current mission. The course included fundamentals of interior guard, establishment of the guard, post security, searches of vehicles and personnel, unarmed restraints and takedowns, rules of engagement, and use of deadly force.
Briefly redeploying to an environment where the rules of engagement have drastically changed, Lance Cpl. James McCoy-Flowers, training non-commissioned officer, explained how the most important lesson he picked up at Chesapeake was learning to adapt to the less-hostile environment of Djibouti.
"It is imperative that all Marines standing post know exactly what their rules of engagement are and what they can and can not do," he said.
At Chesapeake, the instructors broke down the different levels of rules of engagement and taught Marines how to act without hesitation at each level.
In a combat environment, Marines are trained to engage an aggressor on the spot. Guarding the gates of Camp Lemonier however, Marines are taught to assess the situation before engaging an aggressor, according to McCoy-Flowers.
"It was important our unit was put through the many different situations during the course, because we are now fluent with nearly every aspect of force protection," he said. "After having completed this training, we will never say 'we failed to act on this situation correctly because we were not taught how to handle this type of affair.'"
McCoy-Flowers encourages all units preparing to take on an Anti-Terrorism mission in a deployed region to take the training offered at Chesapeake.
The course was valuable to India Company's preparation, in helping the unit rehearse some of the basic tasks the Marines are employing in their daily routines here.
"You can only learn so much from a book, but in Chesapeake was the place we learned the actual practical applications needed to stand post here," said Lance Cpl. Jose Guerrero Lopez, SAW gunner. "What we learned there is what we do everyday here - the proper procedures to changing guard and log books, or 'guard mount' is what we call it. We had many lessons in antiterrorism and how we react to terrorist actions."
Lopez described the course saying he, along with fellow Marines, would take lessons in a classroom environment through most of the morning, then apply those lessons to practical situations in the afternoon.
"Our instructors put us through different scenarios and observed how we reacted in them," he explained. "Afterward, they would tell us what we did right and wrong and would put us back in the same situation to execute it properly the next time."
In one scenario, a car full of "terrorists" drove by rampantly firing their weapons. Startled, Lopez and his team fired back at the "drive-by" vehicle, only to find out the men in the vehicle were taunting the guards by firing into the air.
"The first thing we learned was not to get (trigger happy), but to take cover until impact of fire was positive to be on us or the compound," he said. "We did several act-and-react scenarios like these everyday and learned a great portion about antiterrorism and security."
When it came to educating the Marines, the handful of instructors teaching the course were highly motivated and extremely effective at passing on their knowledge.
"It looked like our instructors loved what they were doing, so they kept us interested in what they had to say," Lopez explained. "I've been taught by others who just ramble on trying to pass the time, but our instructors spoke with inspiration and tailored classes to fit questions we had brought up."
While at Chesapeake, the company covered the basics and set aside smaller details of the course and now rely on the training to become a more successful anti-terrorism unit here.
Staff Sgt. Brian Hogancamp, company gunnery sergeant, said his Marines have enough experience to take what is needed and apply it while on post. The skills they picked up at MCSFTC were imperative, allowing the unit to function as they do today.
"Everyday when I see (my fellow) Marines standing post, I believe the training we have been through has benefited us a great deal," Lopez stated. "I know that if anything were to suddenly happen while standing guard, we would react to it the correct way. We have been trained well."