FORT A.P. HILL, Va --
A siren blast alerted the Marines who were sleeping at the forward operating base. They jumped up and put on their gear as they ran toward the source of the chaos. A suicide bomber hit one of the entry control points.
Fortunately, this was only a drill at Exercise A.P. Hill, which took place May 18 through June 4, however, this training is designed to realistically prepare the Marines of Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, for such an attack.
The casualty drills were an important part of the company’s training, but from the moment the Marines stepped off for the exercise, their training had already begun.
The Marines went through the proper procedures of establishing a FOB, said 1st Lt. Trevor Krauss, the executive officer for H&S Company, and the guard officer in charge for the exercise.
“We went through all of the steps to establish the FOB,” Krauss said. “First we (did reconnaissance of) the area, then established security using gun trucks and made entry control points. After we had a secure area, we built the FOB from the ground up making sure to have sectors of fire that surround the base 360 degrees.”
With all of the hard work that went into the construction of the base, it was very important to ensure it could operate independently.
“We set up this FOB to be self sufficient,” Krauss said. “We have a (base aid station), (command operations center), (detention facility), fueling point and of course billeting. The FOB is also set up next to a field, which can act as a (landing zone) in case of a (casualty evacuation).”
With the base successfully constructed, the Marines focused on running drills to use the base and themselves to their fullest capabilities.
“The first step we went through to prepare the Marines for the drills was to sound the alarm and have everyone get on line,” he said. “The next drill involved a re-allocation of forces to a compromised (entry control point). The next drill (involved casualty evacuation). Finally, we (combined) casualties and re-allocation of security forces in the last drill.”
The evolution of the training paid off for the Marines and was represented by the increased efficiency of the drills.
“During the final drill, within three minutes the ECP got hit, the Marines got on line, brought the injured Marines to the docs in triage, and got the casualties out to the landing zone to be picked up by a bird,” Krauss said. “I time it every time. It just keeps getting better, because their gear is staged, they are ready to go and they know exactly what to do.”
The knowledge of how to set up a FOB and running drills is significant training; however, one of the most important aspects of the training was synchronizing the Marines in the battalion.
“The battalion has close to 400 new joins from privates all the way up to officers,” said Staff Sgt. George Cueva, administrative chief for H&S Company. “At least 40 percent of the battalion is new blood. This is the only chance we have to get together and prepare. It is so important because every deployment is so different. These exercises really focus on bringing the Marines together.”
With all of the Marines being trained to fight efficiently as a cohesive unit, the Marines focused on their next deployment. But, to be a successful fighting force Marines need to look ahead to future battles.
“We need to have the mentality that you can deploy anywhere,” Krauss said. “I think these skills are important for any Marine. Everybody gets caught up in the war we are in right now, but in history we’ve always done things like these. Some of these Marines haven’t dug a hole since (their basic Marine combat training), but (the basics of defending a fighting) hole will (apply to defending) a post. All those skills, like marksmanship, will be applied. It has its transition and it’s all applicable in country.”