U.S. ARMY YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. --
When it comes to preparing for a deployment to a combat zone, tying a dew rag on a Marines head to make him an “insurgent” and yelling, “butter, butter, jam!” to simulate gun fire just doesn’t cut it.
In keeping with the age old tradition of training like you fight, the Marines and sailors of Combat Logistics Battalion 11, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit attended an arduous week-long training evolution at the expansive U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona July 17-24.
To make the training as realistic as possible, hundreds of actors and role players were hired to serve as enemy insurgents, injured civilians and everyday people. An explosive expert kept the adrenaline flowing with deafening booms at the most unexpected times and a Hollywood makeup artist ensured realism for the corpsman by creating extensive wounds to be treated.
“It was a golden opportunity to do combat logistics convoys in urban and rural environments that were as realistic as possible,” said Lt. Col. John E. Kasperski, commanding officer, CLB-11. “We felt that we can give the Marines the most realistic training short of combat.”
The service members of CLB-11 attended classes on convoy operations, weapon system employment, calling in medical evacuations over the radio, escalation of force procedures, immediate action drills to react to threats such as improvised explosive devices, small arms fire or casualties and many other topics that a logistics unit must know.
To ensure a hands-on approach, the CLB was broken up into groups. These groups were tasked with planning and executing convoys while ensuring proper escalation of force procedures were followed. They incorporated everything they learned during the classes in a scenario based exercise July 23.
Cpl. William R. Burcham, a combat engineer with CLB-11, said he was impressed with the amount of scenarios offered and the look and feel of the sites.
“It messes with your mind,” said the Moweaqua, Ill. native. “The people are speaking Arabic and there are real explosions going off in actual towns. It puts you in the mindset of doing a real convoy.”
The members of each convoy were faced with challenges including angry mobs, injured civilians, and mass casualties and of course, many explosions.
“The Marines and sailors out here got to test their own abilities and see what they are capable of and what their strengths and weaknesses are,” Burcham said. “There is a good possibility that we will see some of these situations in Iraq.”
Kasperski said his unit “matured by leaps and bounds,” during the training.
“We took EOF and IED training to a higher level by forcing our elements to react,” said the St. Louis, Miss., native. “We are becoming increasingly more aware that not pulling the trigger is as important as pulling the trigger.”
On the last day of training, the battalion responded to a simulated humanitarian aid operation and had to provide medical treatment and food and water to an entire village.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Aaron J. McCauley-Aburto found himself running around the populated village treating dozens of patients with only his medical knowledge to rely on.
“The actors staying in character provided a real and chaotic experience,” said the Minnetonka, Minn., native. “It puts you in a serious mindset. The scenarios let us pinpoint our shortcomings so we can fix them and function more efficiently.”
As the busses rolled up to take the CLB back to Camp Pendleton, Marines and sailors could still be heard talking about what they learned and how it was the best training they have ever had.
“There is no doubt that we are a better unit now than we were before this training,” Kasperski said.