MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The mayor of Bedrock stands outside a dilapidated trailer eyeing the horizon and finally sees what has kept him waiting for the last few hours. He and his bodyguard have waited for a patrol of Marines. They arrive in eight up-armored humvees, some with weapons mounted in the turret and others carrying Marines in the back, heading towards them.
The mayor grabs his rubber AK-47 and heads into the trailer, leaving behind his bodyguard. Inside, he makes sure his headgear properly covers his face, concealing his identity. Poised over a rotting couch, he starts reviewing what appears to be propaganda material written in Arabic.
Sgt. Brandon Brown, a Dallas native and section leader with Training Platoon, Company A, Anti-Terrorism Battalion, and members of his section are role-playing as Iraqis during a field exercise held here Sept. 12 through the 17. They played out several scenarios giving Marines from the company the chance to react to real-world situations they may encounter in their upcoming deployment.
“We’re evaluating how they act and react in certain situations,” said the former sailor who joined the Corps in 2003. “They’re getting the chance to act exactly the same as they will when they deploy.”
The vehicles stop, assuming a formation to provide security for the area. The Marines pile out of the humvees and begin a cordon-and-search of the ‘village’ they’ve just entered. Some make their way toward Brown and his trailer with only his bodyguard and the flimsy walls of the building separating them. The bodyguard waves to the Marines and yells a greeting.
“What do you want?” the bodyguard asks them as they approach. “Let me talk to your leader.”
The Marines act as they’ve trained and continue to advance, asking him repeatedly to put down his weapon. They aren’t sure if the man is what he claims to be and need to ensure he is disarmed.
“We didn’t tell them who was good and who was bad; we wanted it to be as realistic as possible,” said Brown, a 1994 Belton High School graduate. “You aren’t always going to have all the answers to questions like, ‘Is this an insurgent?’”
Following the man’s failure to cooperate, the Marines move into action, disarming him and breaking his arm in the process. They call for a corpsman to look after him and then proceed to search the mayor’s trailer. Inside they find the propaganda material he had been looking over and confiscate it.
After the Marines finish searching the area, the mayor speaks with the Marine in charge about the damages to his home. The patrol leader gives him a form he can fill out and tells him where to take it, assuring him he will be reimbursed for any damage during the search. The Marines load up into their vehicles and continue the patrol.
Once the Marines have left and the exercise is over, Brown and his comrade discussed how the scenario played out and returned to the rest of Training Platoon. The platoon, made up of Marines preparing to leave the company, has the job of preparing Marines for deployment.
“Just because we’re getting ready to leave the company doesn’t mean we’re through,” Brown explained. “It’s a way of saying, ‘your Corps still needs you.’ These Marines were enthusiastic to get the chance to serve the company one last time.”