TW in Iraq #3: A Mock Iraqi Village

February 3rd, 2006



This last week, we received the best training I have ever received in the Marine Corps. We went to a large movie set where there was a mock Iraqi village set up. There were Iraqi-American actors who were playing roles as civilians and insurgents. There were even mock IED explosions and amputee actors who lost their (fake) limbs when they were caught close to the explosions. We practiced urban patrolling and urban raids in this fully interactive environment, sometimes using blanks and sometimes using simulation rounds. Simulation rounds are like paint ball rounds on steroids. They are 9mm rounds that can be fired out of our actual, issued weapons, but that mark you like a paintball when you’ve been hit.

The training was extremely realistic and extremely instructive. In particular, it opened our eyes to just how difficult it is to maintain a good combat mindset and posture, while also treating civilians with appropriate openness and respect. You don’t know whether the man approaching you on the street is: a) innocent and approaching you to ask for food or water; b) friendly and approaching you to give you a tip about an ambush awaiting you further up the street; or c) hostile and approaching you to set off a bomb vest. Modulated escalation of force is a tricky matter in a crowded street with people (good, bad, and indifferent) mingling all around you—not to mention hidden in windows and doorways.

We trained through the weekend and returned to Twentynine Palms yesterday. We are leaving again for the field tomorrow morning and will be out there until mid-day Sunday (returning just in time for the Super Bowl). After that we have two days until we are let loose for a week of leave. We are all looking forward to a little breather. I am very much looking forward to seeing Daisy and my parents, who are flying out to meet me in Palm Springs.

After returning from leave, we will take part in a month-long training exercise that is now required for every infantry unit deploying to Iraq. We will be operating out of a mock firm base and the idea of the exercise will be to simulate for a month the type and tempo of operations we will be engaged in in-country.

That’s all for now. Best wishes to all.