MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- “Marines, we just got intel [intelligence] on a house with a big weapons cache,” said Sgt. Joshua C. Hudson, 1st Squad leader with 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. “A UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] spotted several people coming in and out the house. We are going in there to check it out.
“If there are any IEDs [improvised explosive devices], we’re going to call it in to EOD [explosive ordnance disposal],” he continued. “Our QRF [quick reaction force] will take any detainees. They say there are at least eight weapons and we need to find them.
“Our purpose, however, is to meet and greet the civilians out there,” said Hudson. “We’re not going to bring a ‘terp’ [interpreter] because we won’t need any right now. We have enough common courtesy to interact with the civilians, whether they are bad or innocent. So, we need to be nice. We need to treat them with respect because we’re in their home.”
Since May 3, 1/6 executed a month-long training evolution aboard the Combat Center dubbed Mojave Viper. The Marines underwent a series of classes on tactics and what to expect during their deployment, a combination of the revised combined arms exercises and the security and stability operations at Combat Center Range 215.
As the training came to an end, the battalion began their “Three Block War” June 5, which is a three-day field exercise aboard Range 215 involving Iraqi role players and scenarios the Marines could encounter during their upcoming deployment.
The battalion patrolled through the range, also called Wadi al Sahara, and met with the city’s role-playing inhabitants in person.
Their mission was to simulate a city battle and provide security from any terrorist activity, declare a known presence to all inhabitants and interact with the population in positive ways to assure them the Marine presence was for their security.
Squads from the battalion encountered many active role-players from the city. Most role players complied with the Marines’ needs of searching in and around their homes, but some were suspect, preparing for their simulated attacks on the Marines.
The Marines expressed gestures of comfort to the role players, and interacted with them as they patrolled their streets and alleyways. With the help of interpreters, the Marines spoke their language to assure them they are in their city for a good cause. Hand-shaking was common in the conversations the Marines held with the role players.
During the patrols, some squads found indications terrorists were among the civilians who lived in the city and suspicions arose on the first day of the three-day exercise.
During nightfall of the first night, the battalion encountered the aggressors in several areas of the city. Weapons caches and IEDs were found and turned in. Detainees were taken in to the forward operating base of 1/6 for questioning.
The battalion’s mission of maintaining peace in the city of Wadi al Sahara was executed to the extent of their intent. Their forceful presence against the terrorist was made known after attacks on individual squads.
Hudson, a Tucson, Ariz., native, led his squad through the training evolution and the three-day war.
“The three-day [final exercise] put all of our lane training exercises into one,” said Hudson. “It put into perspective what we will see out there. It brought out our weaknesses and throughout the exercise we developed a way to overcome them. We saw everything put to use; from EOD to the UAVs. The real-life scenarios gave us all the feeling that it was the real thing, just no rounds were flying at us.”
Included in the three-day exercise was the blistering Twentynine Palms heat. Some of the battalion members, who are stationed in Camp Lejeune, N.C., have not had the opportunity to acclimatize to the desert weather until visiting the Combat Center for training.
“Aside being from Arizona, I’ve fought in Fallujah while it was 138 degrees,” said Hudson. “The weather out here is something we cannot afford to let burden us. Yet, it is a good way to train some of the new Marines how to cope with the elements out there.”
Lance Cpl. John W. Lindley, a rifleman with 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, has been with the unit since February. His experience of pre-deployment training has changed since he stepped on board the Combat Center, he said. With help from his leaders, Lindley feels his squad is ready for their upcoming deployment.
“My squad leader and team leaders were a really big help for us during our pre-deployment training package,” said Lindley, a Wolcott, N.Y., native. “They’ve been sharing their knowledge with us to the best of their extent. They’ve been through the fight for Fallujah so they know, first hand, what we can expect out there and what we can do here to train for that.”
Interacting with the role players during the three-day exercise has contributed to the confidence of the battalion members, said Lance Cpl. Michael J. Howard, a rifleman with 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company.
“I feel confident that everyone knows what they’re doing, and the role players are helping us understand what we’re going to see,” said Howard, a Daytona Beach, Fla., native. “A lot of the role players were actually helping us speak proper Arabic. They occasionally spoke in English — just a few words to help us understand and correct our usage of some Arabic phrases.
“The training has been very intense,” added Howard. “I’ve been trying to make sure the Marines are prepared and confident in everything they do. There’s never a dull moment. I keep telling myself that this training is worth it for when we get over there.”