Marines fight each other to sharpen combat skills

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Cpl. Jared M. Cantu uses a terrain model to brief his plan of attack during military operations on urbanized terrain training May 7 at Combat Town in the Central Training Area. (Photo by Lance Cpl. David N. Hersey)
Cpl. Jared M. Cantu uses a terrain model to brief his plan of attack during military operations on urbanized terrain training May 7 at Combat Town in the Central Training Area. (Photo by Lance Cpl. David N. Hersey)

Marines fight each other to sharpen combat skills

by: Lance Cpl. David N. Hersey, III MEF/MCIPAC Consolidated Public Affairs Office | .
U.S. Marine Corps | .
published: May 17, 2014

CENTRAL TRAINING AREA, OKINAWA, Japan -- A crow’s caw echoes through what appears to be a ghost town as Marines approach from the surrounding forest. With voices low, they ready their weapons. A shot is fired and the battle is on.

Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 4, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, trained in military operations on urbanized terrain May 5-8 at Combat Town in the Central Training Area.

The Marines moved to the mock urban environment May 5 to begin training. One squad was chosen to defend the town while the remaining three squads attempted to capture and occupy it. The squad leaders had to create a strategy to complete their assigned mission efficiently and then convey that strategy to the Marines following them.

“Training like this is great for building unit cohesion,” said Sgt. Alex P. Wisecup, a combat engineer with CLB-4, CLR-3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “There is a chance the Marines will have to use this in an actual combat situation, and this training puts them in a position where working together is the only way to succeed.”

After each attempt, the Marines received constructive criticism about areas they needed to correct and were sent back to try again, according to Staff Sgt. Daniel D. Carter, an electrician with the battalion. Over time they improved, becoming more efficient and effective with each new try.

“They’re getting better with each run,” said Carter, a Baltimore, Md., native. “Each time we come out here, we’ll add a new level of difficulty to the exercise, preparing them to handle more complex scenarios should they encounter them in the future.”

The Marines also faced the challenge of executing their mission while under fire from blank rounds. The added noise and gunfire placed another level of stress on the Marines, hindering communication and bringing them closer to what a real combat situation would feel like, according to Lance Cpl. Andrew T. Christensen, a combat engineer with the battalion.

“When we’re not using the simulated fire, it’s easy to communicate,” said Christensen, a Baltimore, Md., native. “You can whisper and they’ll hear you across the room. But with the fire, you have to shout, you have to react and keep yourself and the Marines with you alive. All that plus the loud gunfire can be intimidating if you’re not used to it. By doing that here, we can learn to adapt to it and continue on without freezing up.”

To make the exercise as realistic as possible, the Marines donned Instrumental Tactical Engagement Simulation Systems, a sensor system mounted on harnesses worn over their combat load. A transponder was mounted near the muzzle of the weapons, and every time the weapon was fired, it would send a straight-line signal. If the signal struck a receiving sensor, the harness would emit various sounds alerting the participant that they had been hit. Depending on the point of contact, the Marine would be considered wounded or deceased, and the other Marines would have to move the simulated casualty to safety and a medical evacuation point.

“It adds a lot more to the reality of everything and a sense of responsibility,” said Lance Cpl. Lewis H. Kennedy, a combat engineer with the battalion. “You know that if you go down, then someone else has to help you, and you end up endangering them. It makes you more cautious and mindful of the consequences of your actions.”

The training served as both a cohesion-building exercise and an opportunity to sharpen necessary skills, according to Kennedy, a Philadelphia, Pa., native. The Marines are eager for the next time they can match wits against each other in Combat Town.

“You learn to trust the Marines you’re with a lot more, especially when you go through something like this together,” said Kennedy. “It’s good to get away from our usual routine and just come out here and train, and I’m looking forward to the next time.”