MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa completed their mission rehearsal exercise, the unit’s last major predeployment requirement, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 13, 2012.
The four-day exercise included role players originally from African nations who speak their native languages in order to familiarize the unit with situations they are likely to face during their upcoming deployment to support U.S. Africa Command.
Four security cooperation teams spread throughout local training areas worked independently to build relations with and mentor their foreign partners on weapons safety, combat first aid, patrolling and perimeter security.
“The entire scenario was essentially a concentrated version of their upcoming deployment,” said Capt. Ross Sanders, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit assistant air officer, who evaluated one of the teams for the exercise. “Each situation was meant to represent the worst that could happen. Every point of tension was pushed to its climax.”
The role players gave the Marines and sailors a realistic opportunity to interact with partner nation service members while contending with cultural and language barriers.
“It helped me learn to look at the situation from their perspective and to value their input as experts on the areas we’ll be working in,” said Cpl. Calvin Taliaferro, a Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa combat engineer and a native of Richmond, Va. “I think it’s good to have a chance to learn how to interact with the people we’re going to be working with during the deployment.”
Every team was observed and evaluated by a 22nd MEU Marine and a member of Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, who controlled the scenarios throughout the teaching and advising portion of the exercise.
“They maintained composure,” said Sanders, a native of Birmingham, Ala. “They had a good working knowledge of the culture they were working with and a good resident knowledge of what they were trying to teach.”
Most of the challenges the teams experienced were not caused by a lack of planning, knowledge or maturity, said Sanders. The exercise is intended to help prepare the Marines and sailors for the unexpected and better equip them to diffuse or avoid unwanted situations.
After simulating going through customs and dealing with the many tense and difficult scenarios that may occur during the deployment, the unit received orders to head to the base’s urban training compound to support embassy security and execute a noncombatant evacuation operation.
“The 22nd MEU has been outstanding in not only support for the MRX, but throughout the entire duration of our (predeployment training program),” said Capt. Caleb Weiss, Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa operations officer and a native of Purchase, N.Y. “In reference to the MRX itself, the MEU has created a scenario, coordinated with training providers, to include contracting role players, getting scenario support from Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group and from Special Operations Training Group East.”
Weiss said that the MEU “has done a fantastic job of setting up a realistic, challenging training scenario to test all of the Marines of Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa. The MEU has gone beyond just facilitating and evaluating training.”
Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa, currently attached to the 22nd MEU, is composed of reserve Marines from 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, out of the New York area, and from around the country. They will deploy early next year to participate in security cooperation efforts with partner nations, advising their militaries on effective security procedures.