MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
It only takes the length of a long breath for a squad of U.S. Marines to breach and clear a room with deadly efficiency. Engineers assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, completed this fast-paced and intense building-clearing training Jan. 30- Feb. 3.
MWSS-271 used the Military Operations in Urban Terrain town located in Marine Corps Outlying Field Atlantic, N.C., to simulate a hostile takeover and how to overcome unexpected situations with small unit leadership.
“Your head is always on a swivel,” said Sgt. Eric Oelkers, a personnel safety officer for the exercise. “You want to always be aware of your surroundings and aware of your Marines to know where they’re at at all times.”
It only takes a glimpse into recent Marine Corps history to understand the importance of this training, said Oelkers.
“Wake city, Fallujah, Baghdad, those are all realistic points as to why we train,” said Oelkers. “As soon as that door is kicked in, [the Marines] get funneled into a tight space and need to know how to operate together.”
In the midst of the ear-ringing gunfire, ammunition smoke, and escalating confusion, the Marines have to rely on their small unit leadership to cut through the fog of war – no matter the rank or billet. With corporal being the highest rank participating in the building-clearing, small unit leadership was tested with constantly shifting leadership positions.
“What we’re looking for from the Marines is to have a good succession of command,” said 1st Lt. Charles Sieber, a combat engineer officer, with MWSS-271. “Nobody should be walking around thinking that they are a general population Marine. At any moment they can become that squad leader or team leader.”
The MOUT town was flooded with 38 Marines kicking in doors, lining their sights through windows, searching and assessing for anyone or anything that may pose a threat to themselves, or more importantly, to the Marines on their left and right.
“This is for them to open their eyes to what could be expected of them when conducting these types of operations,” said Sieber. “You could be squad leader within the first five minutes of conducting an operation like this.”
The Marines wore laser equipment, attached to their flak jackets and Kevlar helmets that would register a correctly aimed shot with a loud, ear-piercing ringing or a near-miss with a beep.
“My end goal is to ensure any of my Marines are able to take my place if the situation arises,” said Cpl. Christian Leishman, a squad leader for the exercise. “If I were to go down for any reason, they have to fill my shoes and I have to ensure that they are able to do it.”
As the smoke cleared with shouts of commands and directions evolving into guided discussion from senior leadership, the scope of the training became clear to the Marines.
“This [training] gave small unit leaders the chance to train the Marines to help them become more in-tune to the life or death situations they may encounter,” said Leishman. “The fundamentals of rifle control are important and how you’re going to clear the rooms with a clear target of what you are shooting – or more importantly, not shooting.”