View Full Version : Marines train in 29

06-30-05, 10:26 AM
Marines train in 29
The Desert Trail

MCAGCC/TWENTYNINE PALMS - For anyone who has spent any time at all in this community, the sight of United States Marine Corps vehicles lined up in convoy along city streets is a familiar one. Generally, these Marines are in transit to or from the base and only spend as much time on public roads as it takes to get from one place to the other. Last week, however, that changed.

Some residents might have heard the pervasive thrum of the attack helicopters circling low over the city; others driving along back roads may have seen a scattered line of HMMVs along the shoulders, their turret gunners at the ready, riflemen hunkered down in washes and behind walls. Some residents have even had the rather unusual experience of seeing squads of fully armed Marines, firearms at the ready, walk onto their property as defensive perimeters are secured.

These Marines, set to deploy to the urban war zones of Iraq in a little over a month, were here getting a taste of something no on-base training can provide; the unpredictable and sometimes chaotic conditions of the real world.

The three-day convoy exercises, which concluded last Friday, were part of a month-long training exercise dubbed MOJAVE VIPER, designed to provide units with up-to-the-minute training for the challenging and every-evolving conditions they will face in the battle zones of Iraq and elsewhere. What makes last week's maneuvers unique is that it marks the first time in MCAGCC's long history that combat training has taken place outside the base's borders and within the limits of the city itself. With the fighting in Iraq becoming increasingly urbanized, and with a foe adopting almost exclusively guerrilla-style tactics, the Marines taking part in this training will gain that much more of an edge over the conditions they will soon face overseas.

"We want to make sure that we can provide every Marine who trains on this base the most realistic of circumstances," said MCAGCC Chief of Staff and Operation Iraqi Freedom I veteran Col. James Braden. "It is our goal to expose these Marines to as many scenarios as possible, so they aren't experiencing events for the very first time when they are out in theater."

Participating last week were Marines of the Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine division, based out of Camp Lejeune. N.C. These Marines, many already veterans of the Afghanistan conflict, will be deployed in August to conduct stability and support operations in Iraq. Escorting each convoy and providing simulated close air support (CAS) was a mix of fixed-and-rotary wing aircraft, including F/A-18D Hornet multi-role fighters and AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters.

One major aspect of the exercise was to hone coordination between the forces on the air and on the ground. As part of the CAS exercises, Marines in the convoy were required relay attack coordinates and battlefield conditions to the pilots above. And while the jets were barely visible cruising above 10,000 feet, the helicopters were considerably lower. In fact several were even to land on public roads - again a first here - to simulate evacuation of casualties.

The three convoy exercises, conducted on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, all followed the same predetermined route; starting off from the base's Lear Avenue exit, heading down Poleline and Morongo and Indian Trail, finally doing a round-robin from Adobe to Valle Vista, to Bagdad and Amboy before finally turning back onto Adobe and towards the base.

On each leg of the route, Marines found themselves presented with any number of simulated combat and security exercises - some of which brought them into close contact with occasionally nonplused local residents.

Regardless, Marine Corps spokespeople say that it was, ultimately, the close relationship and mutual support between MCAGCC and the people of Twentynine Palms that made these long-planned in-town exercises possible.

"We hope events like this can capitalize and continue to build on the cooperative relationship between the Combat Center and the City of Twentynine Palms," Braden stated. "This will give those who have been such strong supporters the chance to see how we train, the more people that are around to watch the exercise, the more realistic the scenario becomes."

Indeed, there is talk that even more direct involvement from local residents may be sought for future exercises of this nature. For now, though, it is hoped that this new approach will help these Marines be that much better prepared to persevere on the still-dangerous streets and highways of Iraq.