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Instructors with Division Schools act as an enemy soldier and a hostage during an Urban Leaders Course exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 3, 2014. The instructors teach junior leaders how to effectively shoot, maneuver and communicate in an urban combat environment. The course is designed to give small unit leaders the confidence to train their Marines how to operate in urban combat scenarios. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua Murray/released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua Murray

Divisions Schools familiarizes Marines with urban combat techniques

9 Apr 2014 | Lance Cpl. Joshua Murray

The sun glared down on the field as Marines moved into position around the makeshift house as the wind covered the sound of their movement. As they held their positions and waited to conduct the raid, two enemy soldiers waited inside the house, holding a hostage. The Marines raised their weapons and prepared for a raid their instructors wouldn’t soon forget.

The assault was part of a raid and detainee handling exercise during the Division School’s Urban Leaders Course here April 3.
Urban Leaders Course taught the Marines the fundamental skills and tactics necessary for operating in an urban combat environment.

“We already teach the Marines in our course how to shoot, move and conduct small unit tactics in an urban environment,” said Sgt. Matt Mickelsen, the Urban Leaders Course Chief Instructor with Division Schools, 1st Marine Division. “ But as instructors, we are always thinking of new and effective ways to make the training even better than it already is.”

In addition to learning the basics necessary for operating in an urban combat environment, the small unit leaders must also be able to bring the information and tactics they learned back to their junior Marines.

One of the biggest challenges for Marines in this course is adapting from the traditional training mindset to understanding the key concepts involved in urban combat operations, said Corporal Dustin Harris, a squad leader with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.

“I think grasping some of the concepts is difficult for Marines, because most of the training they receive is for conducting operations in a rural environment and everything changes when you move into an urban environment,” said Harris, a native of Kansas City, Mo.

Learning these concepts is essential to the Marine Corps success in future endeavors, Harris added. A large percentage of the world’s population resides in an urban environment and many conflicts the Marine Corps may face in the future will be urban combat. That makes courses like this essential. 

Throughout the course, the small unit leaders become more confident in their skills in urban combat scenarios.

“This course is designed to take small unit leaders who don’t have experience in urban combat and give them the necessary skills to lead their Marines,” said Mickelsen. “ As the course has progressed I’ve seen them become more confident and become better at making smart decisions in difficult situations.”

When the Marines bursted into the house, they were met with a hail of gunfire from the first enemy combatant. 

“Contact Front!,” shouted the first Marine to enter the house.
The Marines responded quickly and accurately, neutralizing the enemy combatant as they moved, rifles raised, down the narrow hallway. They cleared room after room, shouting commands, and searching for the last enemy assailant. 

As they entered the final room, they were greeted by gunfire from the last combatant, who was holding a hostage in the far corner of the room. The point man returned fire, neutralizing the enemy combatant. 

“Get on the ground!,” shouted the point man to the hostage.
As the hostage fell to the ground, the Marines secured the room and prepared for withdrawal from the house. The mission was a success.

With their new skills for operating in an urban combat environment, the small unit leaders are equipped to train the next generation of junior Marines to respond to our nations call to any clime and place.