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Shaffer
08-30-02, 09:38 AM
Marines performed well during fighting in Afghanistan ( news - web sites), but many were lacking some basic skills like how to dig a foxhole, two generals in charge of evaluating the Marines' execution of the war said Thursday.



Lt. Gen. Edward Hanlon Jr., commander of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said many Marines aren't properly trained in foxhole digging because environmental laws prevented digging on base at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

"One of the first things you learn as an infantryman is how to dig a foxhole," Hanlon said. "That's basic training."

In addition, Marines need better equipment to detect and disarm land mines. The current military land-mine gear is decades old, and has trouble detecting new kinds of mines made primarily from plastic.

"We desperately need help it's a show-stopper," he said.

The generals also want a light artillery gun that can be transported in a helicopter. Ground forces are better protected with long-range artillery backing them up, but U.S. forces had difficulty moving any big guns from the naval armada in the Arabian Sea into southern Afghanistan.

Despite these issues, many operations went well, said Lt. Gen. E. R. "Buck" Bedard, a deputy commandant, who briefed reporters alongside Hanlon.

An early mission in the war was to set up Marine Forward Operating Base Rhino, an advance base built around a remote airstrip in the Afghan desert near the Taliban's former stronghold of Kandahar.

To prepare the base last November, 1,000 Marines and 50 vehicles had to be moved from transports in the Arabian Sea, 400 miles away, Bedard said.

The problem: Pakistan was in the way. While Pakistan is a U.S. ally in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaida, the Pakistanis did not want a huge U.S. military presence visible on or over Pakistani soil.

So the Marines traveled entirely in aircraft, and only in the dark. Still, the troops and vehicles were in place in just two nights, Bedard said.

The mission, and others in Afghanistan, reinforced the Marines' desire for the controversial MV-22 Osprey ( news - web sites), a hybrid helicopter-plane that would quickly insert troops into dangerous territory. It has suffered from several fatal crashes during testing, prompting some critics to call for killing the expensive program.

Bedard also wants to put Marines in two specialties that have proven critical: human-intelligence gathering both spying and interrogating prisoners and special operations.

"That's a capability we need to bring back," Bedard said.

The military is also considering putting some Marines under U.S. Special Operations Command, which now includes Navy SEALS, the Army's Green Berets and Rangers and some Air Force specialists like pararescuemen, Bedard said.

The new Marine special operations forces would probably function like the Army's Green Berets, who train troops in a foreign country, Bedard said.