CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq -- Finding ways to save lives on the battlefield, both friendly and foe, is a continuous topic for the Marines here.
Marines of 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment are learning ways to keep vigilant against enemy forces, yet preserve safety for innocent civilians. It’s called Escalation of Force and it’s a crucial tool the Marines will need every day on the streets of Fallujah.
“EOF procedures are steps we take to minimize harm to innocent civilians,” said Capt. Jeff C. King, the battalion staff judge advocate. “The rule here is not only to hunt down insurgents, but also to protect the people of Fallujah.”
According to EOF doctrine, the level of force required to confine and resolve an incident should be increased only to the level required. Simply stated, that means Marines should only use the force needed to counter the threat posed.
The “New England’s Own” Marines are being trained to enforce this.
Marines sat through a class before climbing into the turrets of their humvees to test their skills. They practiced several scenarios aimed at sharpening their abilities to warn innocent civilians they were getting too close to Marines’ positions. They also practiced their procedures to ensuring traffic in the crowded streets was kept at bay.
They are all steps Marines use daily here to keep civilians from venturing to close and possibly coming under fire. Essentially, it provides Marines the buffer space to make sure they shoot only insurgents and protect civilians.
It also comes down to being disciplined shooters.
“I train the Marines in marksmanship and today we were focusing that marksmanship with various weapons systems from elevated positions,” said Master Sgt. Thomas W. Hyre II, operations chief, 1st Battalion 25th Marine Regiment.
Those who will primarily be in the “gunners” position were set aside to make sure they understood and properly executed the correct EOF procedures.
“The training here was great,” said Lance Cpl. Jordan J. MacConnell, a gunner with Weapons Company. “We have always been told how important EOF procedures are, but today we got to use and see them first hand.”
Marines here are using bright flags and other visual objects to help civilians be warned of danger, although not all steps taken during the EOF process are non-lethal.
“In my experiences, when we employ the procedures, the people of Fallujah are moving and doing the right thing,” said MacConnell, from Falmouth, Mass.
While on Camp Baharia the gunners discussed their actions and when they think it would be the best time to use a more aggressive act of force. But when patrolling the city, decisions will need to be made instantaneously.
“Today we were training,” Hyre said. “We needed to workout the kinks now and not while they are on the street.”
The Marines may face insurgents in Fallujah, but protecting the citizens daily is a mission which they are prepared to fight.
“It is a tribute to how seriously we take out jobs in protecting innocent lives,” said King, 30, from Dallas.