MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Butlerville, Ind. --
24th Marine Expeditionary Unit infantry companies immersed themselves in Middle Eastern culture here, learning the fundamentals of counterinsurgency operations during the MEU’s Realistic Urban Training exercise taking place across southern Indiana and northern Kentucky.
Counterinsurgency training focuses on familiarizing Marines with military activities undertaken by a government to defeat a rebellion or guerilla movement and rebuilding both relationships with and infrastructure for the foreign population affected by the insurgency.
“With this training portion of RUT, the Marines are here to react and engage with locals of a foreign country and develop decision making skills,” said 1st Lt. Josh Martin, operations training officer, Headquarters and Support Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th MEU. “Marines learn that the decisions they make involving the local people will affect them later on; depending if the decisions they make are good or bad.”
The Indiana National Guard provided the 24th MEU its entire urban training center as the stage for Marines to completely engage and occupy an urban environment as though they were in a foreign country.
“It is satisfying working as a team to help the Marines get the type of training that will help them overseas, accomplish the mission, and minimize casualties,” said Army Staff Sgt. Andrew M. Schummer, operations team leader, Grizzly Operations, Indiana National Guard, MUTC. “It’s great for us because the MEU is one of the first units I observed actually utilizing MUTC the way the Indiana National Guard originally wanted it to be used.”
Ensuring accuracy to the smallest detail was key, and Operational Postured Security Alliance provided culturally appropriate role-players and events to challenge the Marines to focus on earning the local’s trust and remain vigilant to enemy threats.
“We are [here] to ensure the details of the exercise are live, realistic, and accurate as far as the commander’s intent and realistic based from our experience and background,” said Travis J. Krauss, manager and former special forces operator, OPS Alliance. “A lot of our experience is industrial, organizational, and psychological. What’s entailed in this [exercise] was incorporating a lot of sensory involvement and ensuring that we were replicating the scenarios to be as real as possible and detailed to the micro-level.”
OPS Alliance and the 24th MEU prepared several training lanes to condition the BLT before each company began patrolling the streets.
In one lane, teachers, native to Muslim countries, coached Marines about cultural aspects in terms of what they should and shouldn’t do when interacting with a Muslim population. Marines learned more of what to expect from Muslim natives and how to overcome language and cultural barriers.
Culture awareness classes provided Marines an insight to what builds rapport with locals when they conduct a mission, said Tim A. Krauss, manager, OPS Alliance.
Additional training lanes used tactical scenarios to teach infantrymen to combine riflemen tactics and culture awareness.
“What’s really good about this place is that [we’re] given an opportunity to have role-players act friendly and act mean, where one day they’re friendly and the next day might try to kill you,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew C. Revei, team leader, Weapons Platoon, Bravo Co., BLT 1/9, 24th MEU. “Our guys are learning how to tell the difference and to better read people. The culture awareness classes helped out a lot.”
Once the 48-hour exercise begins, the urban training center transforms into a town where Marines have to react to every feature of the base as if their lives and mission depend on it. Every company in BLT 1/9 will get a cycle through the center over the course of RUT.
“It was stressful going through the marketplace when you see people swarming towards you and trying to sell you stuff,” said Pfc. John D. Selen, machine-gunner, Weapons Platoon, Bravo Co., BLT 1/9, 24th MEU. “You’re always on edge because you have to be on alert when you patrol through that place. [Afterwards] I felt a lot more confident and better understood how to work with the guys I’m with.”
As each platoon evolves from the most basic patrol to the most complex firefight, each company developed how to unify under a single command. Company commanders learned to transition authority from one company to the next, passing information, points of contact, and revealing vital information to assist in COIN situations.
“We created this event to have these critical verbal exchanges of information between the role-players and the MEU, so that we exercise all the levels, from the handshake all the way up to the intelligence cell,” said Krauss. “You have to get the locals on your side so you can begin to gather information on insurgencies operating and to help strengthen your numbers.”
At the end of the day, these Marines know their success and survival depends on the unique skill-set they learned and will continue to develop as the MEU prepares for deployment.