MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- A legion of light armored vehicles appeared at dawn traveling in a pack through the Combat Center, journeying into a training area.
They snarled and growled as their expedition climbed the heights of Mainside’s hills. They traveled as a pack and fought as a pack, barking with their co-axial M240G machine gun and 25 mm main gun. These pack of wolves make their presence by surrounding their prey, as their scouts retrieve them by locking on to them with a fierce bite.
They are known as ‘Wolfpack,’ and their mission is to carry out reconnaissance, security, limited offensive, and defensive operations; dogfights commanded by their leader.
One of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion’s ‘Wolfpacks,’ Charlie Company, executed their Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation at the Combat Center’s Range 200 from Oct. 17 to Oct. 21.
The MCCRE uses set standards by which a unit is evaluated in the performance of all tasks, as they pertain to combat readiness. Commanders conducting a MCCRE make a total assessment of a unit's training readiness during a single exercise, or it evaluates a unit's performance through a series of given scenarios and combine the results to determine total training readiness. When correctly executed, it can assess unit capabilities, aid in planning, and serve as an evaluation tool to measure readiness in terms of combat performance standards.
Platoons from Charlie Company spent a day conducting the MCCRE and were given five scenarios: a convoy security patrol, vehicle check points, a security and stability operation in the range’s military operations on urban terrain town, urban patrolling and a cordon-and-knock search operation.
“The MCCRE is the culmination of our training,” said Capt. Mark C. Brown, commanding officer of Charlie Company. “We have an upcoming deployment and this training and readiness evaluation allows us to test out our skills and see how we place when we evaluate. We have sufficient amount of time before the deployment so that, if needed, we can correct ourselves in any aspect that needs work.”
The evaluation began when the company convoyed out from the LAV lot toward the training area. The lead vehicle put out a message a few miles before reaching Range 200 that there had been an improvised explosive device sighted.
The reaction to the IED caused the vehicles to establish a guard by forming their vehicles away from each other, as the lead vehicles left to investigate the threat.
The mock-IED led to one “casualty” and crewmen quickly recovered the Marine who lay wounded from shrapnel.
After the area was secure, the company continued their expedition to the range where they prepared for the rest of the MCCRE. Brown and 1st Lt. Andrew D. Bedo, executive officer of Charlie Company, briefed the company on their upcoming events.
“We’ve done an outstanding job preparing the past several months,” began Brown. “It is time for another deployment and we need to be ready for whatever is thrown at us. There will be no more time to get ‘shown the ropes.’ If you hit this training hard, there will be nothing that you won’t be able to handle out there.”
“The reaction to the IED was done well,” said Bedo. “We will continue on the [evaluation] with more scenarios that you will see during deployment. We will paint a fairly similar scenario of Iraq and what situations occur. Just follow what you were trained to do.”
The next scenario was a vehicle checkpoint.
The platoons established a mock-checkpoint outside the range’s MOUT town. The main road leading out the town was closed off with concertina wire.
Marines from the company who were role-playing as aggressors approached the checkpoint with a 7-ton truck and a humvee. When approached by threatening aggressors, the Marines opened fire using simulated rounds of paint and apprehended them.
The third test Marines received was a SASO operation. The platoons convoyed to the range’s MOUT town and made their presence known by interacting with the inhabitants of the town, again Marines role-playing as civilians, and asking questions about suspicious activity and the presence of a weapons cache.
Two urban patrols followed their SASO operation.
During the first patrol, Marines found a weapons cache inside the home of a man who claimed he knew nothing of it. He and two other habitants were apprehended. Aggressors from nearby houses looking at the commotion began to open fire on the Marines. The aggressors were stopped and taken inside LAVs as the platoons returned fire to other aggressors, leaving no threats behind.
On their second patrol, Marines were given intelligence of a man who was leading the attacks. The patrol was basically a combat scenario that mimicked a cordon-and-knock search mission. The Marines suffered a few casualties, as their strength was matched by the aggressors. Nonetheless, the Marines managed to complete the mission and seize their targets.
“Our goals were met,” said Bedo during the company’s debrief. “We utilized our skills after the scenarios were developed with unknown situations. We were forced to use our standard operating procedures, which led us to success.”
“Usually on a MCCRE, commanders see the plans not being carried out,” added Brown. “But we overcame that. Things got crazy in there. The buildings and alleys were filled with chaos but we dealt with them. When there were problems, I saw the Marines with the knowledge take charge and pass on what they knew to each other. I heard yelling, which meant there was heavy communication. We approached you with the worst and you beat it.”
The MCCRE for Charlie Company was evaluated with high regard to their actions, said Bedo.
“It was our last field operation and we all knew we had to show them what we’ve learned,” said Lance Cpl. Michael S. Nelson, infantry scout with 3rd Platoon. “Although the scenarios were artificial, we had to try projecting ourselves to the scene and place. We can’t take this training lightly at all in this field. It’s like in boxing – you train bad, you perform bad. You train bad in ‘the field,’ you die and your friends die. As a [Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran], this stays in the back of my mind at all times.”
Charlie Company’s training led them through a successful evaluation. Ferocious battles on convoy operations and patrolling through urban streets is what the “Wolfpack” is bred to do. Their fierce bite left the role-playing aggressors tending to their wounds – a harbinger for their upcoming deployment.
“You can go in soft or you can go in hard,” said Bedo. “Or, you can go in really hard, and that’s what we do.”