Battalion Landing Team 3/6 becomes "street smart"

3 Apr 2001 | Cpl. Thomas Michael Corcoran 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 3/6, took full advantage of the Military Operations on Urban Terrain facility during a recent workup exercise at Fort Pickett, Va., March 25 to April 9. The MOUT facility is a mock town perfect for training young Marines and refreshing veterans in the techniques used to perform various missions in urban environments. "We are out here teaching the younger Marines how to conduct themselves in urban warfare," said Cpl. Matt D. Morgan, a team leader from BLT 3/6. "If I wasn't training I wouldn't be having fun," said the Marine from Riverton, Utah, half-jokingly. He said that although this is some of the most enjoyable training, what they are training for, urban warfare is the most dangerous battlefield to date. Lance Cpl. Dan V. Marino, BLT assault man said many of the Marines like the fast roping period of the training. The native of Braintree, Mass., said the objective of fast roping is for the Marines to descend from a helicopter down a rope to a safe landing. That safe landing may sometimes be the roof of a building in a dangerous area. Marino is also learning to deploy his crew serve weapon, the Shoulder MountedAssault Weapon, in the restricting urban environment. Assault men carrying the SMAW don't get called on much in urban training, said Cpl. Timothy J. Smit, BLT assault man. The native of Sumas, Wash., said his weapon, able to take out a battle tank, is too destructive to use indoors. However, he exclaimed when his firepower is needed, "I'll switch my selector lever to rock n' roll and send hell down range." Smit has seen things change in the MOUT standard operating procedures in just the short time he has been in the Marine Corps. He said one of the most noticeable examples he could think of is the stacking of Marines against a wall awaiting the entry of a building. In the past they would try to stack the whole squad against one wall.A Marine could throw in a fragmentation grenade to clear the building for entry, misjudge the stability of the structure's walls and take out the whole stacked squad, said Staff Sgt. Howard L. Kreamer, BLT platoon sergeant. Kreamer said because of that and other risks, they now stack four Marines at the most, for building entry. The Marine from Severn, Md., said that in the beginning the MOUT tactics covered solely the clearing of buildings in a Level III fashion. Level III is the most extreme level in which everyone in the environment is the enemy. Kreamer explained Level I is a show of force. An example of this would be Marines on a humanitarian mission, passing out food and supplies, while moving through the streets their rifles are slung over their shoulder. Kreamer explained this level as, "Winning the hearts and minds of the people." Level II would be more like a Somalian environment where there are both good and bad inhabitants, said Kreamer. This level could be experienced in a humanitarian mission in which some of the inhabitants have become hostile. However, the battle of Hue City in Vietnam is a prime example of Level III, in which building-to-building clearing was used and all the inhabitants were considered enemies, said Kreamer. Kreamer added that when MOUT was first being taught there was no emphasis on movement through the streets. Now, he explained, it is one of the most important lessons the Marines learn. "The defender has the advantage," said Staff Sgt. Kenneth R. Kurre, BLT platoon sergeant. The St. Louis native added that four inhabitants who knew a city well would be able to take out a whole rifle company. Kreamer expanded on Kurre's theory with the following example. The Marine from Baltimore explained he talks and dresses like other people from that city. Now imagine a company passes by him as he stands by a garbage can on a sidewalk. Once the troops have passed he pulls an AK-47 out of the garbage can and fires at them, throws the rifle back in the can and runs through an alley to another street where he blends back in with other citizens walking on the sidewalk. Kreamer said even if he didn't hit one of the soldiers he still made them realize that they were in a dangerous area, hence adding to the confusion of the situation. Kurre said though the chances of this happening are high even with good training and analysis, the chances of Marines surviving and completing urban missions successfully have risen with training. He said that because of Project Metropolis, a Marine Corps Warfighting Lab initiative, they have cut the casualty rate with simulated ammunition by 30 percent. "And no matter how much it says about actual combat," said Kurre. "At least we know we're moving in the right direction." Both Kurre and Kreamer speculate that in the near future a designated urban assault company will be issued MOUT specific gear. Much of the Marine Corps training still revolves around woodland operation but as the populations of the world move toward their cities so do their conflicts, and the Marine Corps will follow prepared to win battles.
26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)