CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Marines with 1st Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, conducted urban operations training at the Infantry Immersion Trainer aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 23, 2014.
The IIT affords Marines the opportunity to sharpen their basic combat skills by creating a realistic combat environment aboard Camp Pendleton. Civilian role players occupy the training town, acting as either innocent bystanders, allied armed forces, law enforcement personnel or enemy insurgents, most of whom don’t speak English when in character.
Marines must skillfully flow through dealing with civilian or friendly foreign nationals while maintaining combat mindsets to guard against insurgents who actively employ small arms weapons, rocket propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices to prevent the infantrymen from accomplishing their mission.
Second Lt. Noah Joseph, a platoon commander with Charlie Co., explained that his Marines had been training in urban operations during the week, honing individual, fire team, and squad operation skills, which culminated in a platoon-sized cordon and search exercise.
The Marines’ mission was to link up with local police to assist them with locating a high-value individual and a weapons cache within the city. Squads of infantrymen began to maneuver throughout the small town and utilized urban warfare tactics to search and seize any nefarious material they discovered.
“What a fire team does right and wrong dictates how the squad operates,” he said. “If one Marine doesn’t hold a sector, he can knock our platoon’s plan off the tracks.”
Once they entered the town, the Marines went right to work putting their plan into action. Communication was vital as they cleared rooms, hallways and roof tops. From the pointman to the last Marines providing rear security, everyone relayed important information as they proceeded through the town.
Machine gunners provided over watch from cleared rooftops while riflemen on the ground bounded across streets and through buildings to search for the HVI and weapons cache. With an unknown insurgent force in the vicinity, the Marines had to be prepared to take contact from any window, doorway, or hole in a wall by which they might pass.
Sergeant Marcus Reyna, a platoon sergeant with Charlie Co., said his job is to ensure his commander’s intent is properly executed. To do this he made sure his squad leaders were keeping their Marines technically and tactically proficient.
“My priority is to focus on the attitude of the Marines,” Reyna said. “If I can keep my squad leaders with the right mental attitude on their mission, then fire team leaders should want to emulate that, which should trickle down to each individual Marine. What you wind up with is the platoon all focused on the same goal.”
Aiding them in achieving this goal were the instructors, role-players and facilities of the IIT. Role-playing insurgents fire blank ammunition, simulated RPGs and utilized mock IEDs to prevent the infantrymen from proceeding through the town. Instructors observing the engagements identified Marines as casualties based on how the unit reacted to situations they were involved in.
What the Marines experienced during their time in the IIT mirrored realistic combat scenarios and incorporated the violence and chaos of actual combat, only short of using live ammunition and explosives.
“The reason the IIT is a great training tool is because the role players add an unknown element to the mix,” said Reyna. “It’s not like training against members of your own company where you usually know the lance corporal you are up against.”
Over the course of the four days of training at the IIT, the Charlie Co. Marines built upon and refined their urban warfare skills. Working as a cohesive unit, they were able to apply these skills in a realistic training environment to successfully accomplish their mission. The end result was a company of Marines more combat-ready than before, further strengthening the Marine Corps as the world premier fighting force.