JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Since the early 1980s Marines have been training to overcome obstacles that the urbanized world presents them as populations, and their battles, move into world cities.
The Marine Corps is compensating for this by conducting regular training in urban and simulated environments.
Although many military compounds have simulated towns to train in, including Camp Lejeune's Military Operations on Urban Terrain facility, there seems to be a lot to say for the real thing.
"These guys get played out using that [the MOUT facility]. That's why we come here. It gives them something new," said Cpl. Mark K. Ulsh, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-365 (Rein) crew chief.
Sergeant David L. McMichael, HMM-365 (Rein) crew chief, explained Marines could train in Jacksonville, N.C., until they had everything down perfect, but they would only have covered training in that specific environment. He said they may have trouble adapting to the terrain and climate elsewhere. "Plus we don't have a downtown [in Jacksonville, N.C.]. This place has all the skyscrapers and big buildings."
Ulsh agreed, "Yeah that's a big MOUT facility, a really cool one!"
The military must rely on the support of communities and citizens throughout the country because during this training they are literally using their streets and backyards.
During a recent one of these exercises, Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit relied on the patience of Jacksonville, Fla., residents to perform a night mission on a motel complex.
Mike N. Doshi, property owner of the motel complex Marines used for training, said that he became involved when some federal agents approached him and asked permission.
Doshi recently bought the property out of bankruptcy and had not yet started refurbishing it. He allowed the Marine Corps to use it because "basically the Marines do so much for this country."
"I don't know too much about the Marines. I was talking to the Marines and FBI who said that these kinds of exercises help them in real-life situations," said Doshi. "So I was kind of pickled to know that I could be of some use."
Everything seemed quiet when Marines rushed out of the bushes. A second later, teams were on the catwalk blowing motel rooms inside out. Marines were moving simulated casualties out of the area and gathering evidence from the scene.
"It gave me a chance to work with medical personnel," said Cpl. Rene Acapulco, 26th MEU unit diary chief, and litter barer for the exercise. "I had the opportunity to do what might very well end up being one of my collateral duties in combat before we deploy."
Doshi said that you may see stuff like this on documentary-type channels but nothing compares to seeing it in real life.
"Marines came in and took care of the bad guys ... there were explosions and gun fire. My heart beat rose," said Doshi. "But everything seemed to be precision and systematic."
"I'm impressed. The Marines can come back anytime," said Doshi. "If I was 19 again, I'd join the Marine Corps, too."