MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa 15 Logistics Combat Element’s theater security cooperation teams conducted its certification exercise on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, June 15-19.
The TSC teams, made up of Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group and 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, rehearsed their missions at Landing Zone Bluebird on the base.
These exercise operations included embassy reinforcement, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel and non-combatant evacuation operations, to name a few, at various locations within MCB Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, and Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.
The advisory role the Marines provide partner nations in Africa is a unique aspect of SPMAGTF-CR-AF. The teams will travel to a myriad of countries in Africa to train alongside partner-nation military forces to practice everything from infantry tactics and maintenance repair to engineering and land navigation.
During the first few days of the exercise, the training included classes on the cultural aspects of their operating environment followed by a practical application exercise at the end of the week where they were evaluated by Marines from Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, based out of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia.
“It is my job to ensure that the Marines of the SP-MAGTF-CR-AF understand what their mission is going to be in Africa and that they are well-educated and prepared to handle the complex mission that normal Marine Corps training does not provide,” said Maj. Joshua Bourne, security cooperation planner with MCSCG, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command.
Bourne and his team of Marines traveled from MCSCG’s headquarters to MCB Camp Lejeune to educate the Marines of SPMAGTF-CR-AF 15 through their knowledge and experience.
“We got a valuable microscopic view on specific countries that we will be operating in,” said First Lt. Amber Rickman, a logistics officer with CLB-6 and a TSC team leader. “We were provided the opportunity to speak to Marines who are subject matter experts on not only theater security cooperation operations, but on conduct and social norms in the different countries.”
After the classes were completed, MCSCG Marines conducted a simulated, scenario-driven exercise where the TSC teams were put to the test.
“We take the SPMAGTF-CR-AF and bring them out to the field and play a scenario as if they are in a foreign country,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ethan Irons, a communications chief with MCSCG. “Then we take the role players out and make the Marines go through certain scenarios for them to deal with such as: building rapport, teaching or any situation they might come across in Africa.”
Working with the role players who act as partner nation military members in a foreign country pushed the Marines out of their comfort zone and forced them to overcome the language barrier and cultural differences. This provided them with a life-like experience so the team leaders down to the most junior Marines are prepared and confident before they arrive in country.
“The role players involved did a great job at creating scenarios where friction may occur in country,” Rickman said. “Each team really maintained a professional, appropriate, and structured Marine Corps standard, while still adapting to the environment in which we were placed.”
Both the evaluators from MCSCG and TSC team leaders said they felt confident about the Marines’ performance at the completion of the exercise.
“The biggest challenge is for them to understand that what they are training for is completely different from anything they have done before,” Bourne said. “This exercise allows the Marines to feel the stress of being in a different country, work with a different culture, and understand the differences and how they need to prepare themselves to be successful.”