MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.-- -- Just off the coast of the Philippines, there exists a small country called Hilippo. This beautiful island would be the perfect vacation spot--if it weren’t for the civil unrest the citizens of Hilippo have to deal with every day.
The island and country of Hilippo aren’t real, but to the Marines of 1st Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team 1st Platoon (1F1), 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Hilippo is the next best training to a real-world contingency.
Marines from 1st FAST 1st Platoon participated in a three-day training exercise at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain training area here June 21-24.
Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Breen, 1F1 platoon sergeant, explained the basics of the three-day drill.
“We’re doing operational readiness exercise. The whole goal of this is to evaluate us before our FAST deployment program,” he said. “We’ll go pre-stage in a different country and be able to forward deploy from there to any areas or embassies that need a heightened level of security.”
The call for evaluation is what landed the platoon in Hilippo.
“We have flown into a fake country and the consulate has received threats. We have been tasked with providing an added level of security to that consulate and administrative building to keep it from being closed down,” said Breen, during the scenario. “We’re dealing with lethal force options, non-lethal force, riot control scenarios, and how we handle visitors, so we’re testing Marines to make sure they are able to handle the different levels of threat and be able to address every situation.”
After the perimeter was up, Marines from Headquarters Marine Corps Security Force Battalion used their acting skills to act as terrorists and displeased citizens. Fed up with the (imaginary) patriarchy and political struggles they have been dealing with, the “citizens” of Hillippo did everything they could to express their dissatisfaction during the scenario. They harassed Marines on the perimeter of the consulate, threw weapons, set of Improvised Explosive Devices, and even started firefights.
“This is the most realistic training I’ve ever had,” said Lance Cpl. Tanner A. Hooker, a rifleman with 1F1 and a native of Paducah, Ky. “These people are doing everything they can to run over us, but we’re going to overcome this because not only do we have the manpower, but we have everything we’ve learned,” he said. “It’s the way that we train. We train hard.”
Lance Cpl. Muhesien Ralph Hassen of Aurora, Ill., is a rifleman with 1F1 who played an aggressor, complete with an imitation AK-47 and costume. “We’ve been trying to move their barbed wire, yelling things, and catching them off guard,” he said.
As the days progressed, the “aggressors” became more insistent and started throwing flour, rocks, mattresses and sticks at the perimeter. The situation sometimes evolved into a riot scenario, when the Marines had to break out shields and take to the streets of MOUT town to stop the insurgents.
Lance Cpl. Jeff C. Eckmenn, a rifleman with 1F1, said he faced a variety of potentially dangerous situations over the three-day training evolution. “It’s good training because we have good aggressors and it makes it more realistic. We went over how to re-capture a building, deal with people, setting up security, bomb threats, and perimeter security.”
Over the course of the evolution, the Marines of 1F1 also endured intruders, casualties, smoke bombs and simulated rounds.
Jeffrey R. MacGregor of Philadelphia, Pa., was posted at the entry control point of the consulate. “They got more aggressive as time goes on,” he said.
After days and nights of conflict, the Marines of 1F1 successfully neutralized the situation in Hilippo. With no hostile forces in the city, they were clear to go home.
When the Marines retreated from MOUT town, they had three days of dirt and sweat soaked into their cammis and were in need of a good night’s sleep. Their mission was accomplished - the country of Hilippo was secure, and the Marines had a new confidence in their war fighting knowledge.
Capt. Patrick M. McMahon, 1F1 platoon commander, gave his Marines praise for their die-hard warrior ethos. “We’ve had some challenges. The opposing force did a really good job,” he said, “In my opinion, I don’t think I’ve seen scenarios that are as elaborate as they are here. They’re testing our skills at every level.”
“We’ve got a very young platoon. They’ve been together for a decent amount of time, but we only have a couple NCOs (non-commissioned officers), which means the junior Marines have to fill NCO billets. A lot more is expected of them at a lower rank, and they do a phenomenal job,” said McMahon.
1F1 passed their evaluation and are now ready to deploy wherever their skills are needed.