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Anti-Terrorism battalion spins its wheels during Desert Talon

By Pfc. Robert L. Botkin | | June 23, 2005

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Marines from the Anti-Terrorism Battalion, 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, participated in a live-fire convoy exercise on roads near the Yodaville Urban Training Complex located on the Barry M. Goldwater range June 23 as part of Exercise Desert Talon.

The exercise, dubbed 'Murrayville' after its creator, Capt. Michael G. Murray II, is designed to prepare units for convoy duty, and teach them to coordinate with close air support and friendly units operating independently in the forward area.

Murray, an infantry instructor and light armored reconnaissance instructor in the Ground Combat Department of Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1, modeled the exercise after the original convoy course at the Combined Arms Exercise program at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Murray made modifications to the CAX convoys to include scenarios he thought were missing, such as firing from moving vehicles and dismounting the vehicles while halted in a danger zone.

Ever mindful of the complications on a battlefield, Murray made sure elements such as improvised explosive devices, civilians, long-range vehicle targets and casualties were included on the course.

"We designed our course to include much more aviation," said Murray, "Due to the nature of (Desert Talon) being a (Marine Air Wing) level exercise it was more readily available. The course also operates off the latest tactics, techniques, and procedures currently being used."

"This is kind of a culminating point, actually," said Sgt. Maj. Jamie Hunt, sergeant major of the Anti-Terrorism Battalion, a Lewiston, Idaho native. "The climate, the atmosphere   this is basically like Iraq."

Established Oct. 29, 2004, the AT Battalion had already completed four convoy exercises during Desert Talon, but this was their first chance to take part in a live-fire exercise like this.

A building-block approach is used to train convoy members and commanders, said Murray.

"We start with an academics package for convoy commanders and move to (opposing forces) aggression on blank-fire convoys," said Murray. "We then integrate aviation with those blank-fire convoys in urban and suburban terrain before finally sending them through the integrated live-fire air and ground convoy security operations course."

"Most of them come in at a crawl stage," said Murray, speaking of participants in the exercise. "When they get to this point they should be at a run stage."

During the final debrief Murray complemented the Marines on how well they did, saying that the convoy reacted as it should, with strong radio communication between vehicles and "talking guns" to keep enemies under constant fire.

"Our goal is to make the saying 'every Marine a rifleman' mean just that," said Murray. "We want insurgents to look at (aviation combat element), (ground combat element), or (force service support group) convoys and know that they are Marines and that attacking them would not be in their best interest."

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