MARCH AIR FORCE RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- For the third time in three years, Marines with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion are back in the deserts of California training for an upcoming deployment to Iraq.
Currently attached to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, these combat engineers are participating in Support and Stability Operations training preparing for the numerous missions they may encounter while in Iraq.
One major aspect of the training for the engineers is urban patrolling and how to deal with Iraqi people in the area.
“This training really opened my eyes when we were patrolling and people just seemed to come out of nowhere,” said Sgt. Eric B. Naraine, a squad leader with the engineer battalion. “This is actually how it will be in Iraq and we have to get used to communicating with the locals and building rapport with them.”
The training started with classes on how to perform urban patrolling, emphasizing satellite patrols. Satellite patrolling breaks a patrol into smaller units allowing Marines to cover a bigger area in addition to providing smaller targets to the enemy.
“With this training, it just gives the Marines a chance to see how satellite patrolling is used when they get out there,” said Cpl. Raymond J. Butler, an Urban Warfare Training Center instructor and Buffalo, N.Y. native. “This patrolling helps to not get channeled and makes it so that there are no escape routes for the enemy.”
The engineers whose main mission in Iraq includes mine sweeping and destroying weapon caches, went from the classes to applying the fundamentals learned while on a patrol in the former base housing unit turned simulated Iraqi village. The patrol starts as Marines make their way through the mock village with Iraqi villagers walking around, most trying to talk to the Marines as they patrol through the heart of the village.
It doesn’t take long before the Marines start receiving simulated Iraqi gunfire from a house in the village. After communicating with the villagers and clearing rooms in a house, Marines finish the exercise and talked about the problems that occurred.
“Having no radio communication with the other teams in the squad made it hard because we couldn’t tell what was going on where they were,” commented Lance Cpl. Brandon M. Mitchell, a New London, Wis. native and combat engineer with the battalion. “We also need to learn how to deal with the locals more because we were too aggressive with them when they were just innocent people in their homes.”
Instructors throughout the SASO course reinforce this aspect of the training. Due to reports from Iraq, this scenario is seen many times and the objective is to eliminate the enemy, and have no Marine or civilian Iraqi injuries, commented Butler.
“We really stress that the Marines should interact with the locals and get to know the people who aren’t the combatants,” explained Butler. “This is good training, especially with the changing missions in Iraq.”