CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait --
Lacking streetlights, the village would look pitch black beneath the sky if not for the tungsten glow shining from under the reinforced steel doors. The five steel buildings contain a mélange of deadly territory perfect for urban combat training: trap doors, mouse holes, dead ends, balconies, cinderblock courtyards, stairways and hidden rooms.
Each room is wired to the hilt with closed circuit cameras, microphones sensitive enough to detect a whisper, armed mannequins poised for attack, and a speaker system to add the unnerving sounds of urban battle.
At night, it stands disquieting like a local carnival's haunted house; except, instead of ghosts in white sheets, there were men in black masks with assault rifles, their heads wrapped with scarves to conceal their identities.
The Marines and sailors of Battery B, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (BLT 3/8), 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) spend most days at the range shelling cratered impact areas with powerful artillery pieces. But Monday, instead of raining steel death upon imaginary adversaries, they teamed up to battle their besieged staff non-commissioned officers as the lethal Leathernecks fought back with the skill of guerilla rebels here aboard the Mobile Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) training facility in Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
"It gets them into the combat mindset and helps them learn what to expect when they get out there,"said Staff Sgt. Michael McQueen, Platoon Sergeant of Btry. B's Howitzer platoon. "Some of the training we've had helped them learn how involved it could become, and how an event can escalate from one level to another in just a matter of seconds. It actually prepares them for whatever we might have to encounter on this deployment."
The artillery battery will usually throw far-reaching high-explosive hooks to the enemy's guts, but when they are with a MEU, they must be prepared to provide a range of services to deal with many other situations. With more trucks, heavy machineguns, and personnel than an infantry line company, they can do as much damage as a Howitzer when formed into a provisional rifle company.
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Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. McBride, a Howitzer gunner from Waukee, Iowa, said he likes being both artillery and infantry equally. Sending projectiles booming down range invigorates him as much as the opportunity to sharpen his infantry tactics beneath the desert sun. Training with the 22nd MEU(SOC) has given him a wide range of these skills.
"They told us from the day we started artillery school that we're going to be the'Jack-of-all-trades,'" said McBride. "We get called for all sorts of missions: humanitarian missions and all the different things that are part of the MEU(SOC) mission just because of our size."
After an honorable discharge as a corporal from a two-year Army contract, McBride has learned what it means to be a U.S. Marine - a third generation U.S. Marine. He has had to cross-train and gain a lethal skill-set for the roles he may have to fulfill during this deployment, like weapons and artillery training. He also participated in the MEU's non-lethal course to learn how to survive a mace attack during a riot.
"You have guys who are normally cannoneers driving trucks, moving ammo, and doing pretty much everything,"said McBride. "We have to train for everything; this is just training for urban warfare."
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Under normal operating conditions, field radio operator Lance Cpl. David M. Shumaker monitors the artillery battery's radio systems to ensure communication between the Fire Direction Center and the guns stays clear, he said. However, this course has given him a taste of the hard life, the life of an everyday Marine rifleman lugging a 50-pound radio pack on patrol.
"It gives us a pretty good idea of what the grunts are doing every day in Iraq,"said Shumaker, a radio operator with 2nd platoon, 3rd squad. "They're going 24/7 carrying all their gear constantly; this has given me a whole new respect for what the grunts are doing up north."
With daily temperatures peaking near 110 degrees Fahrenheit, sweat poured under the weight of flak jackets, Kevlar helmets and simulated combat. The dusty Marines guzzled gallons of water between missions and added packets of Gatorade now and again to replenish electrolytes. Even though the night interrupted the glaring heat, the barren environment was never inviting.
"I'm lovin'this type of training," said Shumaker, a 20-year-old Bernie, Calif., native. "It's good in case anything comes up. We're a MEU, and we have to be prepared for anything."
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The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) consists of its Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element. Battery B is currently serving as the artillery arm of the MEU during a scheduled deployment.
To learn more about the 22nd MEU(SOC), visit the unit's Web site, www.22meu.usmc.mil.