Marines Magazine

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Let’s Roll

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — Successful convoy movements through enemy terrain must be precise and resolute. But the fine-tuned coordination needed to move vehicles, personnel and equipment across dangerous geography is hardly something that comes natural to Marines. This state of readiness is reached only through training.

The Combat Center’s Advisor Training Group conducts interactive live-fire convoy operations designed to help units work out the kinks and sharpen what is already solid.

“Command and control and delegation of tasks within a patrol are key,” said Maj. Randall Horner, the training officer for ATG. “There are many tasks that can’t all be done simultaneously by one patrol leader.”

But that’s not to say that many units haven’t figured some of these things out already, said Horner.

“A lot of units coming through have ideas and standard operating procedures put in place for these kinds of operations; this is a nice opportunity for them to validate and refine their training,” he added.

Marines from the II Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Marines from 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, formed three convoys and put this course to the test March 2 aboard the Combat Center.

Before the exercise, the units supplied their motorized operations SOPs, which the assessors and instructors then evaluated and used to guide and mentor each team through the pros and cons
of their unit’s approach.

Each team conducted a 10-kilometer movement over rough terrain, keeping a watchful eye for remotely activated simulated improvised explosive devices, or “targets” that help instructors simulate enemy direct and indirect fire.

“There’s got to be a method behind the madness, some sort of concept behind why a team makes certain decisions,” said Troy Rector, a lead assessor with ATG, during an after action discussion with one team.

“You didn’t do anything too sexy. You kept it simple. Shoot, move, communicate – you did what you were supposed to,” he explained to the II MEF Marines after their convoy. “On the other hand, pushing through the enemy fire like the team did at the very beginning of the exercise might work once
or twice, until an enemy catches on and becomes more bold and creative with tactics, techniques and procedures and uses IEDs.”

While in combat zones, units might find that some of their SOPs are already being exploited, Rector added.

This constant psychological back-and-forth between Marines and a “thinking” enemy makes it necessary for units to stay current on the latest tactics and techniques, to remain even more adaptable and unpredictable than their enemy.

Sgt. Hugh Davenport, a patrol leader during the exercise with 1st Bn., 3rd Marines, said he considers ATG a great live-fire training opportunity for units getting ready to deploy, adding that tactics have changed since the last time he conducted motorized operations.

“There’s better gear and equipment now, which allows us more maneuvering capabilities and gives us more options,” he said.

The upgrade in tactics and gear is expected to give the unit the confidence to operate in a fast paced environment, while using live ammunition – a confidence that will be required of them in theater.

And it’s not just individual capabilities that this intensive training aims to foster, said Horner.

“Some teams are a collection of misfits, an assortment of military occupational specialties that have never collectively trained before. To others, this is nothing new. For both, this is where to make the mistakes and to learn.” •