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Desert Talon goes out on the town

29 Jun 2006 | Lance Cpl. Megan Angel

Marines participating in Desert Talon conducted their three-day final exercise at Somerton Middle School, June 18 and Kofa High School, June 19 and 20 in Yuma.

The final exercise of Desert Talon gives students the opportunity to combine the training from the past two weeks and incorporate the air support with the ground support in a simulated combat environment, said Gunnery Sgt. Matthew E. Terry, Marine Aviation and Tactics Squadron 1 Marine Mobile Team instructor.

The training included convoy operations, detecting of improvised explosive devices, casualty evacuations and control-point operations. A team of Marines who have been deployed to Iraq from Marine Wing Support Squadron 372, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., pretended to be insurgents and Iraqi nationals.

Marines from MWSS-372 set up ambushes and IEDs during convoy exercises to help the ground Marines practice moving tactics and detect and engage the enemy without harming friendly forces operating in the same area.

“This is just like what these Marines are going to encounter in Iraq,” said Staff Sgt. Arthur G. Moon, MWSS-372 combat engineer. “This is the time for them to make mistakes and learn from them.”

The Marines patrolling along the convoy detected IED threats and called explosive ordnance disposal teams in to disarm or remove the device. They set up entry-control points to prevent passage through the area, once the EOD team arrived. The EOD team used a remote-controlled robot to drive over to the possible IED to detonate or declare it a false alarm instead of having to send Marines.

Entry-control points are areas blocked off to prevent unauthorized access to a base or site to ensure that any personnel passing through are properly searched for contraband, weapons or other threats to service members.

The aggressor team of Marines tried to pass through the checkpoints with hidden dummy rocket-propelled grenades on their vehicles.

“Marines have to learn where to look for things like RPGs,” said Lance Cpl. Timothy R. Abarca, MWSS-372 motor transportation mechanic.

The entry-control point training allows those Marines who have been to Iraq to show the participants exactly where to look for RPGs and other weapons that may be hidden on vehicles, said Abarca.

The trainees were taught how to deal with the pressures of weapon detection while the simulated Iraqi nationals pretended to speak in Arabic.

“Not being able to understand people while you are in dangerous areas is distracting and frustrating,” said Abarca. “It’s important that the Marines think about how they are going to handle situations like this that are going to happen.”
During the ambushes, the instructors had the Marines practice calling in for medical evacuation for staged casualties.

“These Marines have really improved since the beginning,” said Moon. “They are using everything they have learned to work together as one unit.”

“I was here before to participate in the training,” said Abarca. “Now, I’m here to help with it and after being in Iraq, I really believe that Desert Talon prepares Marines well for deployment.”

Desert Talon gives units preparing for deployment the chance to train in the sand and heat, said Terry. It also gives the units an idea of where the Marines stand before participating in Desert Talon.

Desert Talon concluded June 22. The next training cycle is scheduled to begin in September.

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