APRIL 15, 2015, LOS ALAMITOS RESERVE CENTER AND AIR STATION, Calif. – Marines with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, conducted embassy reinforcement operations on Joint Forces Training Center Los Alamitos, California, during the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s certification exercise, April 12 and 13, 2015.
The embassy reinforcement portion of the exercise simulated a rapidly deteriorating security situation in a foreign country where the American ambassador requested assistance from the MEU located in the area.
“The Marines will supplement and reinforce the security plan already in place by the Department of State,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Milanuk, instructor with Expeditionary Operations Training Group raids branch, the organization facilitating the training. “While at the embassy the Marines will fall under DoS command, to be used at the leisure of the embassy’s ambassador. If he wants to use them to man specific posts, if he wants to use them as a quick reaction force, he will use them as the situation dictates.”
The training tested the Marines’ ability to adapt to defending in an urban environment, as opposed to attacking through one. It required the Marines to operate under a different set of rules.
“Everyone knows that we can set up an urban defensive position,” said Milanuk, “it’s what we are trained to do; but when you have to work out of a different playbook it’s important that the Marine knows what those rules are.”
Civilian contractors and Marine role players acted as embassy personnel, local guard forces, and local nationals to make the training as realistic as possible.
When Marines see this kind of situation for the first time they expect to be able to establish a defense as they normally would, Milanuk explained. With embassy reinforcement that is not the case. Some areas will be off limits for troop movements and defensive positions, some of their usual weapons systems might not be authorized for use, and lethal force might not be an immediate option. The key to the unit’s success is how well they can conform to the DOS’s existing standard operating procedures and contingency plans.
Over the two-day training evolution the Marines worked to establish a defensive posture in line with the embassy’s established security plan. They worked with the local guard forces and embassy personnel to identify potential security threats to the compound and react within proper escalation of force principles, ranging from allowing the local guard force to de-escalate the situation to a complete emergency evacuation of all personnel from the compound.
“The key goal in this training is the integration between DoD and DoS personnel and adapting to the rules they fall under,” Milanuk said. “Despite their similarities, it’s important that the Marines understand that their normal tactics might not be applicable in all situations they may face.”
The embassy reinforcement operations are just one piece of the 15th MEU’s CERTEX. Over a two-week period, Marines and sailors with the MEU will conduct several concurrent and overlapping training events to test the unit’s capability to perform the various mission sets in which it requires proficiency while afloat.
“The CERTEX is designed to test the MEU in a broad range of mission from combatting insurgencies, to more conventional warfare operations like amphibious assaults, and even potential humanitarian assistance and relief missions,” said Maj. Trustun Connor, EOTG intelligence officer. “The goal is to fully test the MEU’s abilities to operate as a Marine Air-Ground Task Force tailored to the area of operations they are expected to be in.”
With the conclusion of CERTEX, the 15th MEU will be a combat ready, fully scalable, rapid response force capable of fighting our nations battles wherever they may be needed.