MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJUENE, N.C. --
“The whole game has changed. This is how you’re going to put them away,” said Randy Blum, a law enforcement professional, while critiquing infantry Marines on a key leader engagement exercise April 17.
Blum is part of a recent movement to train Marines to attack the network of improvised explosive device implanters at the root, through gathering intelligence from Afghan citizens.
The battalion is preparing for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan and is using retired policemen, like Blum, to train their Marines to investigate while interacting with Afghans.
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, used Afghan role players to work on their key leader engagement skills April 16-17.
Corporal Mathew P. Zabik, the squad leader for 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, Company L, was first to lead his squad through the test, requiring them to patrol through a town filled with Afghan role players to meet a doctor at a given location.
Zabik kept his Marines tactically dispersed on the road and on the alert for possible IEDs. Marines spotted and avoided two IED’s on the road along the way.
Zabik was then able to take a Marine and Afghan translator with him to talk with the doctor. Zabik asked the doctor about the recent patients he had seen, and asked him if he felt safe. Through some more questioning, the doctor told Zabik that a soldier had brought in an Afghan with an injured hand. After finding out the details, Zabik decided they had accomplished the mission and pulled his Marines out.
“Afterwards, I realized how many more questions I could have asked,” said Zabik, a Chicopee, Mass., native. “I’ve done this before at a junior level, but this was my first opportunity leading the exercise. Having these Afghan role players is making it very close to real. When I was talking to the doctor I forgot I was talking to an actor.”
Blum observed the Marines and took notes.
“There was evidence there that could have been taken and you could have talked to the doctor a lot longer,” critiqued Blum, who has more than 20 years of experience with gang and criminal networks.
“Our job is to train them in all aspects of policing,” said Blum, who is also on the roster to deploy with the battalion. “The key leader engagement exercise is teaching them what questions to ask, how to approach them and on this situation how to look for evidence – basically, the do’s and don’ts based on our experience in hostile environments. This scenario is a situation where it’s a building process where they meet with key leaders, pull out information, find evidence and use this later on to find and take down the whole terrorist network which is the same thing we do in country when we get there."