FORT PICKETT, Va. -- Thirteen Marines stood stacked, waiting to charge into a building full of insurgents. The Marines set up on stairs outside the building and waited to rush inside to the second floor.
These Marines from Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, trained at a Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility here to enhance their urban warfare skills in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Iraq.
Marines who have almost finished their time with the Corps acted as insurgents. They used their experience from past deployments to provide a more realistic training environment for the Marines. Both sides used simulation rounds and M-69 practice grenades as part of the exercise.
“Using sim rounds is some of the best training for Iraq,” said Lance Cpl. David Hurt, a team leader with 3rd squad, 3rd platoon.
The training consisted of everything from vehicle check points to cordon-and-searches.
A Marine at the top of the stairs showed his grenade to the man in front of him. Neither said a word for half a second. The first man opened the door and the Marine behind him hurled the grenade down the hallway and yelled, “Frag out!”
Time seemed to slow down, and seven excited heartbeats passed before the new silence was shattered by a sudden explosion.
Half a heartbeat later, the squad charged through the door, only to have their attack repulsed by small arms fire. The Marines returned fire. A grenade bounced down the hallway. Some of the Marines headed further down the hallway while others backed out onto the stairs.
“We got bogged down when we made initial entry,” explained Hurt, a Lexington, S.C., native, as he continued to recall how 3rd squad went through the insurgent-ridden building. “We got bottlenecked in the hallway. It became a deathtrap.”
More grenades were thrown as the Marines in the building began to clear rooms. The Marines on the stairs charged into the building. The distinctive bursts of M-16A4s were heard throughout the building. The squad started clearing rooms on the second floor and made their way to another set of stairs to clear the lower level.
An insurgent appeared behind the men and opened fire. Two Marines reacted quickly and neutralized the threat. Having learned their lesson, one of the men moved back down the hallway and posted security in order to prevent further attacks.
“We probably lost half of the squad on the top floor,” said Hurt, a 2003 Camden Military Academy graduate. “That’s why we need this training. To stop it from happening in Iraq.”
Marines made their way downstairs and began clearing more rooms. More grenades were thrown by both sides and gunfire resounded throughout the aging building.
Some of the Marines laid on their backs, simulating life-threatening wounds. The exercise was complete once the entire building was cleared. The Marines went through the building again to collect their simulated dead and wounded and the used bodies of their practice grenades. The squad left the building and assumed a staggered patrol formation. They headed for the tree line to get debriefed.
Some of these Marines have been in the Corps for less than a year. The experienced Marines headed up the debriefing, examining everything that happened and explaining how to make corrections for the future.
“We need more practical application training like this,” explained Hurt, who is preparing for his second deployment. “MOUT is important because this is how we’ll fight in Iraq.”