FORT PICKETT, Va. -- With each era in history comes a new form of warfare. Gone are the days of battles fought on open battlefields or in treacherous trenches with a defined enemy. Now the enemy emplaces Improvised Explosive Devices and suicide bombers move among the civilian population.
The growth of concrete jungles and a rise in unconventional warfare has led to the increased need for urban assault training to combat the war on the streets. April 25, 2007, saw the Marines of Weapons Platoon, Company I, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, "attack" the Urban Assault Course aboard Fort Pickett, Va., with a high degree of intensity.
The course kicked off with a safety brief and consisted of two live-fire ranges and one dry-run range.
Stage one, the individual and team task stage, pitted a two-man team equipped with live rounds against several bullet riddled pop-up dummy targets strategically placed in narrow rooms and hallways. The design of the little shacks forced the Marines to adapt to the environment and enhanced the realism of the training.
"This is very realistic," said Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Lance Cpl. Arthur L. Bush, the thoughtful look in his eyes deepened by the shadow of his Kevlar helmet. "For a second I thought I was back in Iraq where most of the rooms are that small."
The second stage of the course, the urban offense and defensive tasks, concentrated on working together as a squad. This was the dry-fire portion of the course.
The third stage of the course took it to the next level, combining squad and platoon size tasks to the equation.
The eerie shadows cast by the high midday sun and the brisk wind stirring up the dust gave the makeshift town a more ghostly look than usual.
"This is awesome training. The only thing I can compare this to is Ramadi," said Cpl. Christopher Trinemeyer while wiping beads of sweat from his forehead while he explained how the structure and setup of the dusty plywood-city bore a strong resemblance to the streets of Iraq.
The exercise also helped the newer Marines with the unit overcome the initial challenge of charging into a room without knowing what's on the other side of the door.
The use of live rounds, as opposed to blanks, at close quarters helped drive the point home that the Marines could trust the Marine next to them if ever in a combat situation.
"If you can clear one room you can clear five," explained Staff Sgt. Jason L. Smith, the range safety officer for the day. "The most important thing is overcoming that initial fear and understanding the violence of aggression."
With the rise of unconventional warfare, it's only natural that the Marines have done what they do best, adapt and overcome.
At the end of the day, the training exercise helped the Marines and sailors of BLT 3/8 gear up for any operations they might encounter in an urban environment when they deploy as the Ground Combat Element for the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit later this year. For more information on the 22nd MEU, visit the Website at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.