COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Hidden on the outskirts in the small town of Rock Hill, S.C., Marines from Reconnaissance and Surveillance Platoon, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, observe an abandoned carpet and textile mill outlet for suspected signs of terrorist activity from an empty railroad car. Every angle of the objective is being closely monitored by four teams in separate directions for movement of supplies, vehicles or personnel. This is a time when patience is the greatest weapon we have against the enemy.
These Marines are participating in the final week of Advanced Urban Reconnaissance and Surveillance Course, a training evolution designed to develop their skills in observing terrorists from a hidden position in an urban environment where bomb-making materials are expected to be delivered.
This exercise, part of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's ongoing Pre-Deployment Training Program, is designed to develop a Marine's skills in documenting terrorists in an urban environment before the platoon integrates with the rest of the Maritime Special Purpose Force.
The MSPF is a specialized unit drawn from the MEU's major subordinate elements. It enhances the MEU's ability to complete conventional operations and special missions.
"We're painting a picture," said Sgt. Craig Pruiksma, 23, Team Four reconnaissance scout from Coxsackie, N.Y. "Each team gets assigned a side of [the objective], and we report the number of windows and doors, dimensions, number of terrorists, and if there are any high priority targets or hostages."
The scouts quickly realized there were advantages and disadvantages unique to each particular hide site.
"This is a difficult hide because it has so many windows," said Sgt. Sean Manning, 23, Cornish, N.H., native and Team Four team leader, concerning the railroad car. "You can't black just one window, because it'll give away your position. However, once you ensure that you can't be seen from the outside, [the windows] give us more view of our objective."
The following day, the exercise moved deep within the city, as Marines from Team One watched from the bell tower of a large cathedral in ruin.
"This hide site gave us access to the roof, 360-degree satellite communication, and two shingles were missing from [the observation point] which we're using for a sniper hole," said Sgt. Britt Deloach, Team One Leader, 23, of Valdosta, Ga.
Although every Marine who participated in this evolution had an extensive background with training in wilderness environments, many had been given only a limited opportunity to train for urban warfare.
"These guys are so greenside," said Deloach. "They're used to being in the field and now they're getting training for the blackside [urban terrain]."
The scouts quickly embraced their new surroundings, each Marine internalizing the skills and tactics necessary to successfully complete any given mission.
"There's so much potential to learn new things in this [Military Occupational Specialty]," said Manning. "The more you learn, the more effective you are... and you pass that along to your teammates."
Each of the Marines involved in this course first underwent six weeks of training classes facilitated by the Special Operations Training Group at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
These classes covered reporting, tactics, weapons handling, urban sniping, lock picking, and combat trauma in order to prepare them for the final evolution of the course in the urban jungle of South Carolina.
"The scenarios that SOTG provides are as close to real world as possible," said an SOTG official for this event. "You can't ever prepare [Marines] to go to war, just train them in the basics. And these Marines are thoroughly proficient in the basics."