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Assault Amphibious Crewmen ready themselves for upcoming deployment to Latin America, practice MOUT

US Marine Corps News

By Cpl. Daniel Negrete, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune -- A dirt road breaks away from the main highway and cuts deep into the North Carolina forest. Suddenly and almost mysteriously, a row of young date palms grow in a patch of earth where tall evergreens once stood. The sound of Islamic prayer resonates off in the distance as periodic exchanges of NATO and 7.62 rounds echo across the tree-line. A full-scale town comes into view – hastily constructed as it would be on the set of a 1960s Spaghetti Western.

Venturing deeper into this make-believe world, one quickly discovers this is neither a war zone nor the set of a box office thriller. It’s a Military Operations in Urban Terrain or MOUT Town, erected aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., to give deploying troops a taste of what may be in store for them when they step into theater.

2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, Company A., is the most recent Camp Lejeune unit to conduct a field exercise in “Combat Town,” here. The exercise lasted from June 2-4.

During the three-day exercise at “Combat Town,” the Assault Amphibious Vehicle company rehearsed drills on dismounted infantry tactics, urban patrolling, room and house clearing operations, as well as manning vehicle check points and entry control points.

Approximately 45 Afghan role players took part in the exercise – acting as insurgents, community leaders, police officers, merchants and townspeople.

The exercise and scenarios were set up in a manner relevant to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, complete with sniper and improvised explosive device attacks, suicide bombers and hasty ambushes.

Marines with Co. A., 2nd AA Bn., trained in MOUT as part of their pre-deployment work-up to support Continuing Promise 2010, a Navy-led humanitarian assistance mission geared at bringing medical, dental and other valuable services to disadvantaged communities in Latin America and the Caribbean over the span of 120 days.

The AAV company will serve as the ground-combat element for the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force slated to launch in conjunction with Continuing Promise 2010.

“It was essential for us to have proficiency in MOUT prior to supporting this deployment,” said Capt. Lynn W. Berendsen, company commander of Co. A, 2nd AA Bn. “Even though CP2010 is more of a humanitarian and civic assistance type of deployment, MOUT is a fundamental skill for all Marines to have, especially when forming part of a Special-Purpose MAGTF.”

“A deployment to Latin America is a completely different ball game than a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan,” said Master Sgt. Michael L. Blackstone, logistics and operations chief for Co. A, 2nd AA Bn. “[However], in making sure we could provide effective security in the event of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief during CP2010, we wanted to train in something more difficult first – something with a more kinetic and combat operations feel.

This way, it would be easier for us to revert back to a combat-ready state of mind in the event of disaster relief or providing security for a NEO (Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation) than it would have been if we trained solely to provide humanitarian assistance.”

Countries slated to be visited during Continuing Promise 2010 include: Haiti, Suriname, Guyana, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

A force of approximately 500 Marines will work in close partnership with the Navy during Continuing Promise 2010. In addition to supporting the Navy’s humanitarian assistance mission in the region, the Marines will train bilaterally with the militaries and security forces of the countries visited.

“We’re very thrilled to be part of this Special-Purpose MAGTF,” said Berendsen. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for us Marines to get back with the Navy and do something like this – something we’ve kind of gone away from since we’ve been in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We can really do some great things with the Navy on this deployment and form solid partnerships with other nations and their militaries.”

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