NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. -- A two-man team of insurgents slither through a tree line toward a water treatment facility, explosives in hand. Masked by the cover of darkness, they snicker at one another in the moonlight – they know they’re invisible.
Cresting a berm, they’re stopped in their tracks by a squad of Marines, M-16 rifles trained on their foreheads. As the Marines cinch down zip-ties on their hands, the two men speak loudly – their silence no longer necessary – asking each other, ‘how did we get caught?’
The answer to their question lies in the Marines’ mastery of firm base security – tactics the Marines of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit have practiced during the MEU’s Training in an Urban Environment Exercise in Hampton Roads, Va.
Each rifle company from BLT 1/8 took control of two areas that included a port facility and a water treatment facility. Using roving patrols, over-watch, vehicle control points and motion sensors, each company was charged with the security and protection of a vital community resource, said Capt. Nathan T. Perkkio, Alpha Company, commanding officer.
“We’re simulating training for the site security of key infrastructure,” explained Perkkio. “If insurgents were able to bomb (these facilities), it would hurt the local citizens.”
Each facility was subject to infiltration attempts and insurgent attacks – including vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices - by role players intended to challenge Marines and improve communication and internal reaction, said Pfc. David B. Speegle, an Alpha Co., radio operator.
“This is good for getting used to security in a home base,” he said. “It helps us sharpen our observation skills and really teaches you what to do when something goes really bad.”
According to Speegle, the role players have confronted the Marines with not only the tactics of attackers, but they have also shown the Marines how a local populace might react to the presence of a rifle company in their area.
“Last night a guy tried to come in through the woods – he didn’t make it,” added Lance Cpl. Edgar F. Urbina, a mortarman with Alpha Co.
Site security training is part of the MEU’s TRUEX, their premier training event during a six-month pre-deployment workup cycle that kicked off Nov. 30. The exercise involves each of the MEU’s four components: the Command Element; BLT 1/8; HMM-365 (Reinforced); and MSSG-24.
The 24th MEU is scheduled to deploy this spring to the European and Central Command theaters of operations.