FORT BLISS, Texas --
The ramp of an amphibious assault vehicle begins to lower letting in a burst of cool night air. Everything is black. Almost in rhythm the Marines sitting in the back of the AAV begin turning and moving down the ramp into the night. Their mission is to move over a mountain and into a village where enemy forces are known to be present.
For the Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, this night time assault on a village at Fort Bliss, Texas, April 28, 2014, was only a training exercise.
The successful attack on enemy forces who were occupying the village allowed the Marines to gain control and open access to Route Grey, a major route used by coalition forces operating in the area for the upcoming Network Integration Exercise. Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division played the role of the enemy.
Prior to the assault, snipers infiltrated the area surrounding the town, provided accurate intel on the enemy position, controlled supporting fire, and provided precise fire on enemy targets during the assault. The machine gunners and mortar teams suppressed the enemy, and the assault element surprised the opposing forces by attacking from south to north pushing the enemy into the deadly fire of the waiting AAVs.
For many of the Marines in Fox Co. this was their first time assaulting an objective at night as a company, said Staff Sgt. Matthew Hall, a platoon sergeant with Fox Co.
“The purpose behind this assault was to evaluate the Marines ability to conduct a deliberate attack on an objective at night,” Hall, a Pittsburgh native, said . “I believe my Marines performed exceptionally well. The attack on living targets, that could use critical thinking and strategy skills, made the Marines adapt to the situation, challenged the Marines, and made them make decisions to accomplish the mission regardless of outside influences. And that’s just what the Marines did; they continued the assault and did not allow anything to hinder their success.”
Adding realism to the exercise Marines and the opposing forces used the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, or MILES gear. The gear gave accurate feedback to the company commander on how many Marines and enemy role-players were killed or injured during the assault.
When the MILES gear was ‘hit’ the person wearing it was designated injured or dead, similar to civilian laser tag. Personnel monitors issued casualty cards to the victim describing the type and severity of injury requiring Marines and sailors with Fox Co. to respond appropriately with treatment or a medical evacuation.
“I thought the training was really good, especially for the junior Marines like me,” said Brimfield, Mass. native Lance Cpl. Patrick St. Pierre, a grenadier with Fox Co. “Some of us have never done anything like this. It was a great challenge, because we were facing a living enemy force. It was exciting, because it’s what we would do in a real-life combat situation. It was great to get to see how all the different units work together to accomplish a mission.”
Once the assault on the village was complete, Fox Co. Marines loaded back on the waiting AAVs and moved to a defensive position to hold the ground they just gained.
“The mission was a real test for the Marines,” said Hall. “Most of them have never done anything like this. The fact they were able to conduct a company size assault at night with limited visibility and arduous terrain, shows they can be flexible and accomplish the mission they are tasked with.”