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The eyes of the enemy: Desert Talon Marines pose as insurgents

By Pfc. M. Daniel Sanchez | | December 10, 2006

The wind is blowing softly, carrying a slight coolness. The sounds of several military Humvees are heard in the distance. They round the corner slowly as Marines scout the area in search of any threat, unaware they were being watched from the moment they took the corner.

An insurgent cocks the charging handle back, takes aim and fires, taking down a Marine gunner and a Marine on foot.

The insurgents in this scenario were Marines acting as the enemy during a medical evacuation and convoy exercise with Desert Talon Sunday at Cibola High School in Yuma.

Lance Cpl. Jed Rogers, exercise opposing forces and AV-8B Harrier mechanic with Marine Attack Squadron 542, was one of several Marines designated as an “insurgent” during the exercise to provide a more realistic training scenario and prepare the visiting Marines with Desert Talon for future deployment operations.

It’s different being on the opposing side, said Rogers, a native of Amite, La. The insurgents aren’t as organized or tactical as the Marine Corps. They just shoot at whoever they see out in the open and seem more willing to give up their lives.

Rogers said his goal during the training was to disrupt and confuse the Marines and take out as many as possible before he was taken out.

This type of training is extremely valuable for the Marines on the opposing force because it gives them a new perspective they don’t normally see, said Cpl. Fabiano Lebouef, opposing forces and information systems specialist with Marine Aircraft Group 26.

“It (also) enforces the need for situational awareness among the convoy Marines,” said Lebouef, a native of Houma, La.

During the exercise the Marines on the convoy were also faced with the threat of improvised explosive device attacks.

Gunnery Sgt. Brian Branch, opposing forces and Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 explosive ordnance disposal supervisor, set up several IEDs throughout the convoy’s route.

“Realistically, our job is to always put ourselves in the enemies’ position,” said Branch. “Thinking what I would do in this situation or in that one. The difference here is that we were actually applying that thinking.”

“We tried to make the situations as real as possible using the most current knowledge on the enemy forces,” said Branch.

“We were actually trying to make the operation harder for Marines then the insurgents would,” said Cpl. Joshua Garrett, opposing forces and aviation ordnanceman with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252. “(Because) in reality this was training for us too.”

Lance Cpl. Christopher Nesseth, opposing forces and avionics Marine with Medium Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, said he learned ways to improve safety for himself and his Marines when he conducts convoy operations.

Staying low and out of open areas is crucial to safety, said the Portland, Ore., native. It would have been easy to pick off at least three of the Marines who were doing that.

“This is good training and I hope it stays with all the Marines because they never know when they are going to be in a similar situation,” said Lebouef.

“These exercises teach Marines to expect the unexpected and keep an eye out for things out of the ordinary,” said Garrett, a native of Franklin, Ky.

If Marines don’t take the time to think like the enemy, they can get themselves killed, said Branch.

The convoy operations are a few of the instances when Marines have to step out of the role of this countries defenders and into that of the enemy, said Rogers. In the end, the training will enable Marines to be the most prepared, because who is deadlier than a Marine with his rifle.

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