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13th MEU MSPF hits terrorist village in battle sim

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 2005311133155
Story by Cpl. Andy J. Hurt 13th MEU

SAN DIEGO (March 11, 2005) -- It was a dark and dreary night. Lying amidst the grassy meadows of east Miramar, a small group of terrorists carried about their business making bombs and planning attacks against coalition forces in the shantytown village representing anywhere in the Global War on Terrorism.

With no warning, things changed for the worst.

Dismounting vehicles and stealthily creeping from the north end of the town, Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Special Purpose Force penetrated their objective with a fury unknown but in the heart of urban combat.

A fireball consumed the skies, an enemy munitions transport burned. The fire raging, concussion grenades rocked the darkness. Arabic obscenities pierced the chaos over the sound of automatic weapons, and bodies fell still into the dust.

“The overall realism of this is something we can’t duplicate in Marine training,” said Capt. Andy Christian, assistant officer-in-charge of special operations branch, SOTG.

The recent hit on the simul-town terrorist village was only a small part of an enormous MSPF training evolution called the Inter-operability exercise, or INTEROP. The raid force consisted of Marines from Battalion Landing Team 2/1, 1st Force Reconnaissance Battalion, and the 13th MEU Command Element.

At the center of the effort was San Diego’s only full-scale motion picture production studio, Stu Segall Productions, who constructed the village, hosted the bivouac site, staffed Iraqi natives as actors, coordinated role-players wardrobes, and supplied pyrotechnic support to add to the realism.

Studio support, said wardrobe coordinator Mem Macafee, was paramount. “Everybody that works here, works for the Marines." She was tasked with meticulously outfitting each role player, Marine and professional actor with authentic Middle-Eastern garb. Though her workdays are long and tedious, she said that her efforts stem from a sense of patriotism. “We’ve got the special effects, the make up, the pyrotechnics, real amputees, but all I can say is: ‘better here than there.’” The studio, she said, strives to make the training as realistic as possible so the Marines can desensitize themselves, to a limit, to the shock of actual combat.

Macafee’s personal drive to support the Marines is something she takes very seriously. Even though she’s worked with the studio for eight years in television and movie production, “when something has a (real-life) purpose, it takes on a whole new level of commitment for me. I love these guys, and I want to do my part. I call them my ‘little brothers from another mother.’”

Instructors and staff from the Special Operations Training Group are committed to preparing the unit for combat-intensive missions in hostile areas of operations.

“This situation was a (terrorist) village. All the high-value individuals are Arabic-speaking Middle-Easterners. They don’t look like Marines, they don’t act like Marines, and the raid force doesn’t treat them like Marines,” said Christian.

“The main point is to get these Marines off (Camp Pendleton) into an area and situation they’re unfamiliar with.”

The mission simulation detailed a Combined Joint Task Force tasking the 13th MEU with raiding a village in a direct-action mission to kill or capture five HVIs, known to build improvised explosive devices and plan attacks on coalition forces.

“We’re also aware that there are some civilians in the village that aren’t hostile, so the Marines can’t go in there and just ‘spray and pray,’” said Christian.
Being careful whom they fire upon is a major part of the MSPF training cycle, which has been charging on for the last two months leading up to INTEROP.

“This is what INTEROP is all about,” said Christian. “This is the climax right here.”

At the individual level, Marines within the unit expressed their feelings about the training.

“When I was in Iraq (twice), this is exactly what we were doing,” said Sgt. Jeremy Long, a counter-intelligence specialist. Long said the information collected by reconnaissance and surveillance teams was more than adequate to supplement the main effort.

“We know exactly who we’re looking for.”

Long said he thought the realism of the training was unmatched, and that SOTG was going beyond the call of duty to prepare the Marines.

“The MSPF is pretty potent,” he said, “We’re more than capable and the (Special Operations Capable) qualification shouldn’t be a problem.”

He attributed the unit’s readiness to the SOTG instructors.

“The SOTG instructors are awesome. They’re professional and they know exactly what they’re talking about.”

With support from the movie industry, high-caliber instruction from SOTG, and the sheer motivation and drive of individual Marines, the 13th MEU is pushing into the WESTPAC-05 deployment ready to serve as the world’s 9-1-1 force.

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