MOUNTIAN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, CALIF. --
When executing missions overseas, it is vital that Marines understand the situation and feelings of local nationals, giving them the ability to work towards a common goal.
Recently, Marines from 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, experienced both sides of a conflict by acting as aggressors during an exercise to help Marines learn to communicate with locals while deployed.
Some of the Marines pretended to be in the mountains of Afghanistan, contacting the villagers and establishing relationships. To earn the locals’ trust, the Marines had to make the right decisions or risk turning a neutral village into a hostile one.
Government-contracted civilians worked with the Marines to help them make the experience as realistic as possible. Loren H. Sneed, a role-player and Yearing, Nev., native, played the part of the governor of the Mill District, which is a section of the training area.
“I think this is giving them a taste of a potential hostile environment in Afghanistan,” said Sneed. “It gives them something to get used to because they will learn that it’s very hard to know who to trust.”
Mark J. Williams, a role-player and Marine veteran, acted as the governor’s son.
“This is definitely a learning process, and if they don’t do well it’s alright because they have an opportunity to learn from that mistake without creating a problem that they don’t have the ability to fix,” said the Carson City, Nev., native.
Some of the Marines who acted as aggressors said it was odd to fight their friends and fellow service members.
“Pretending to be an insurgent was horrible,” said Pfc. Nicholas J. Muszynski, a rifleman with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Bn., 9th Marines. “There were Marines everywhere, we couldn’t escape, they had the whole place cordoned off and we knew we weren’t going to get away. The Marines did a great job.”
Pfc. Michael P. Probst, a rifleman who also acted as an aggressor, said he believes the efforts of the role-players raised the Marines’ combat effectiveness.
“We helped them learn to watch their backs and be aware and more observant of what’s going on around them, not just their target,” said the Lima, Ohio, native.
Lance Cpl. Eric Dominguez, a field radio operator, praised the Marines’ efforts. “This was a great opportunity because I got to see how our Marines reacted to gunfire and hostile environments,” said the Freemont, Calif., native. “I believe they handled every situation accordingly. They made the right decisions.”
Site controllers monitored the training and provided feedback to the unit commanders.
“After this they should be familiarized with enemy tactics, techniques and procedures,” said B. C. Davidson, a site controller from Colorado Springs, Colo. “They have learned how to establish rapport, establish security in a non-threatening manner and familiarized themselves with the terrain and several scenarios typical overseas.”
The Marines of 3rd Bn., 9th Marines now have a better understanding of how to deal with certain situations and may have gotten a preview of what their deployment will be like.
With the right resources, training and a great deal of practice, these Marines hope to minimize the cultural gap between them and the citizens of foreign countries.