MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Marines and sailors carefully patrolled the dusty streets always keeping an eye out for improvised explosive devices, insurgents and any other threats. However, the dusty streets are not in Iraq, they are here at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain training facility.
Third Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, participated in exercise “Vigilant Bastard,” July 17-21, and simulated some of the real scenarios the battalion could face on its next deployment. All of the companies rotated through different stations including live fire exercises, night patrols and many others.
“This exercise taught us a lot about what to expect over there,” said Pfc. Steven Anderson, a rifleman with Company I. “It’s a big step in preparing us for what we’re going to see in Iraq.”
The exercise involved constantly changing scenarios. One minute the Marines would be speaking to an Iraqi playing soccer in the street and the next a simulated rocket-propelled grenade would fly overhead. The scenarios were set up with coordination between the command and contractors from Defense Training Systems.
“The DTS employees train units with different backgrounds,” said Maj. Ronald Clark, the battalion executive officer. “They calibrate the scenarios for what they most likely expect to happen in theater in the individual unit’s area of operations. We were also proactive keeping on top of it, making scenarios to match our needs.”
The training helps keep the small unit leaders sharp, by testing their decision making ability and making sure they can function under pressure.
First Lt. Patrick Joseph, the executive officer of Company I, said the Marines and sailors are practicing basic immediate action drills. The unit leaders have to respond quickly to the different types of enemy attacks and come up with a plan and execute. The scenarios are chaotic and difficult just like in Iraq.
Frequently, the biggest challenge the Marines faced was a language barrier. To overcome this hurdle, the Marines were assigned a translator. The Marines had to rely on the translator they just met to diffuse several situations.
“It is important to replicate the environment we will be operating in,” Clark said. “The closer we can simulate that environment the more prepared we will be.”
One of the more important scenarios had nothing to do with combat. The market was devoted to educating the Marines about Iraqi culture. The Marines were served authentic Iraqi food and taught some common Assyrian phrases.
Anderson said the most memorable part of the exercise was the market. The Marines and sailors got a better understanding of the culture of Iraq. They got to talk to the Iraqi role players, eat with them and gain a better understanding of what life is like in Iraq.
“Vigilant Bastard” taught the battalion several important lessons. More importantly, it showed the battalion where they stood before deploying.
“Overall they did well,” said Sgt. Kevin Nussbaum, the platoon sergeant of 3rd Platoon, Company I. “You can always improve, but it’s a learning process. I’d rather have any mistakes happen here than over there.”