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American Forces Press Service

Lynn Visits Simulation Center, Marines at Pendleton

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDELTON, Calif., April 27, 2010 – The rocket-propelled grenade that exploded over his head served as an effective attention-getting device during Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III’s visit to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force’s battle simulation center here yesterday.

The deputy secretary had a walk-through of the simulation center before going through it for real. Thomas Buscemi, chief of the center, demonstrated what an RPG sounds like for Lynn.

“The first time they hear this, the Marines say, ‘What a neat pyrotechnic.’ The second time they hear this, they are on the deck, which is where we want them,” Buscemi said.

The simulation center is where fire teams and squads go to get a taste of what they will face when they deploy to Afghanistan. Scenarios include not only kinetic encounters that simulate combat engagement, but also situations that require dealing with local tribal and religious leaders.

“They do not know what scenario they will face when they enter the center,” Buscemi said, “just as they won’t know what’s confronting them in Afghanistan.”

The center is in an old tomato packing plant on this sprawling base, and Marines have tried to make it as realistic as possible. The smell – a mixture of sewage, rotted flesh and animals – is straight out of parts of Baghdad or Kabul.

“Some of the veterans have flashbacks as soon as they catch the smell,” Buscemi told Lynn. “We need them to tell the younger Marines that the last time they caught this smell, someone was shooting at them.”

Squads and fire teams run through a series of scenarios as they prepare to deploy. “We want them to see the things they will face in combat here, long before there are actual bullets flying,” said Marine Sgt. Samuel Walton of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, a combat veteran who now works at the center. The young sergeant has deployed to Iraq four times, and soon will deploy to Afghanistan. The center was up and running for his last deployment to Iraq, and it was “extremely helpful,” he said.

The cadre ran Lynn through the center. Lynn and his party wore special masks to protect themselves as they got a taste of what young Marines go through.

The deputy secretary came away impressed with the center.

“We spend the vast majority of our simulation funds on airplanes and tanks and such, but 85 percent of our casualties are in small-unit actions,” Lynn said. “This is certainly something we should be looking at.”

The simulation center is only part of the training that Marine units go through before deploying. Company- and battalion-level exercises are part of Mojave Viper – a larger exercise at Twentynine Palms, a Marine base near Palm Springs.

In addition to going through the simulation center, Lynn also visited with members of the 1st Marine Division and stopped in at the wounded warrior battalion’s new barracks.

The deputy secretary continues his California trip today with a visit to Vandenberg Air Force Base and a speech to the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles.

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