Photo Information

Pvt. James C. Colucci, from Santa Rosa, Calif., helps search for a simulated captured Marine during counterinsurgency training at Forward Operating Base Gerber here Jan. 16. The Marines of Company G later found the Marine after building trust and gathering intelligence from role players portraying Afghans. The company’s Marines serve as the mechanized assault force for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 2/4, aka the Magnificent Bastards.

Photo by Cpl. Jeffrey J. Belovarac

In thinking-Marine’s war, it’s questions first, shoot second

18 Jan 2010 | Cpl. Jeffrey J. Belovarac 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Fighting an insurgency in contemporary battle spaces, as Marines with Company G training here learned, is cerebral and must be adapted to the times.

The company, assigned as a mechanized raid force with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 2/4, aka BLT 2/4, practiced counterinsurgency operations at Forward Operating Base Gerber here Jan. 14-18.

During the exercise, Marines played investigative roles as they moved through towns, observing and interacting with villagers to outwit an unseen enemy.

Marines trained with several role players, mostly Pakistanis and Egyptians, who helped enhance the experience of working with foreign civilians.

“The role players are critical,” said Capt. Ryan Cohen, an operations officer with BLT 2/4. “They replicate a living, breathing dynamic to the environment.”

The role players acted the parts of Afghan civilians threatened by the Taliban but not immediately willing to accept outside support from the armed Marines who walked through their towns.

When the training started, the company spread itself among three training villages, each with different problems. There Marines had to demonstrate a positive presence and gain local trust through meetings with leaders.

When you are trying to fight an insurgency, you have to observe and assess, said Jaime Carrasco, a senior observer controller and former U.S. Army warrant officer in Kuwait.

Marines need more than a situational awareness, he said. They need a situational understanding. In Afghanistan, for instance, it takes more than identifying a problem. Marines must understand the why. Why are locals encountering difficulties? Why the local apprehension?

During the exercise, a simulated Marine went missing, and intelligence gathering was the only way Company G was able to retrieve him. The training was designed so the company’s actions determined progress in gaining local trust to find the Marine.

“The levels of aggressiveness lead the local nationals to be hesitant, even fearful of working with the Americans,” said Carrasco. “It’s a delicate level of balance every leader of troops has to deal with between force protection and opening up to the populace.”

The same platoon of Marines was challenged again when they found a man walking with a shovel and a rocket propelled grenade launcher. At first sight it was thought the man was an enemy going to burry his weapon. Instead of shooting the possible terrorist, they instead went to question him, only to figure out that he found the weapon while digging and was going to tell the Marines about his findings. 

“You have to look for clues to find the enemy” said Sgt. Stephen W. Suever, from Coleman, Mich. “It’s more of a thinking game than a fighting game.”

Platoons slept in the villages, ate with the locals and fought with their security forces. The experience was designed to teach Marines how the war is fought in Afghanistan, a place where success can be measured in local support.

On the second day of the training, the company acquired a video showing the missing Marine, found to be captured. In the video they found clues of his whereabouts.

Shortly after solving the clues, the company dispatched its raid force in tracked assault vehicles to secure the Marine held captive six miles from the company’s main training effort.

The raid force searched a house and at first found no missing Marine. They heard yells for help through the walls and eventually found a hidden tunnel system that led underneath the house and to the captive Marine.

“I thought there would have been stairs leading to the basement but there were only holes,” said Pvt. James C. Colucci, from Santa Rosa, Calif. “What led us to him was a blood trail. He was all very well hidden.”

After finding the missing Marine, the simulated local leaders of the towns came to the Marines’ forward operating base. Local and Marine leaders shared a meal.

The Marines, through realistic training, were closer to situational understanding.

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
Commanding Officer

Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
Executive Officer

LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarr enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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