7th Marines conduct embassy reinforcement training
By Lance Cpl. Garrett White, Defense Media Activity
LOS ALAMITOS RESERVE CENTER AND AIR STATION, Calif. -- Marines with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, conducted embassy reinforcement training at Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, California, from Feb. 8–13, 2015.
The training exercise was a part of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command 15.2 Certification Exercise (SPMAGTF-CC-CR 15.2), which took place aboard several locations across Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho from February 9–14, 2015.
“Over the course of the week my company conducted various embassy reinforcement operations,” said Capt. James Covey, the Company K commander. “This included maintaining fixed-site security, maintaining a vehicle control point, and utilizing lethal and less-than-lethal tools and tactics to various security situations.”
Under normal circumstances an embassy’s regional security officer has a detachment of Marine Security Guards that maintain the embassy’s internal security and local guard forces that maintain perimeter security outside of the compound, according to Covey. Should the security situation there begin to deteriorate beyond their capabilities, a rifle company could be called in to add an extra layer to their security, and bring new capabilities to the RSO that he didn’t previously have.
Several role players acted as local nationals in a simulated Middle Eastern country. Throughout the week, Marines guarding the embassy responded to myriad situations of growing anti-American sentiment. Emphasis was placed on applying appropriate escalation of force tactics, as not every situation thrown at the Marines required a deadly response.
“If we are in an embassy, that means we are in a foreign country where we may have a shaky political relationship,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob Wiser, a squad leader in Co. K. “We can’t just go shooting everyone that tries to hop over the walls without causing an international incident. What we do have are various less-than-lethal weapons and tactics at our disposal to de-escalate or take individuals into custody without resorting to lethal force.”
Over the week, the squads and platoons of Company K rotated through different security posts such as VCP’s, overwatch positions and the standing quick reaction force. They had to know the standard operating procedures for each post, and how to properly respond to any situation, remaining vigilant to the activities of those inside and outside the embassy compound.
Wiser explained that like most field operations the tempo started off at a crawl but amped up to a sprint as the days went on. Marines had to be increasingly vigilant against potential threats to the compound as role players took notes of their SOP’s, tested their defensive positions, and attempted to gain unauthorized entry to the embassy. Insider threats were also something they contended with as role players acting as local national workers were caught with sketches of the embassy with Marines’ defensive positions and billeting detailed.
The hostility of the local population grew as each day went by. What started off as peaceful protests and grievances against the American presence there grew into violent rioting and attempts to harm security personnel and embassy assets.
“A heavy emphasis was placed on employing less-than-lethal tactics and procedures to defuse hostile situations,” said Covey. “While lethal force is always an option, we don’t want to create another problem, or unnecessarily take life.”
Marines constantly drilled their riot control procedures, reinforcing the proper use of formations, tactics, and the use of their less-than-lethal tools and equipment.
Several times during the week protestors broke past the first few layers of the VCP and the riot control team was dispatched to disperse the crowd, explained Wiser. Protesters threw water balloons, tennis balls and water bottles at the advancing Marines and crashed against their shields to try and break their formation and enter the embassy compound. Proper application of their riot control tools and tactics allowed the Marines to disperse the crowds and maintain the safety of embassy personnel.
The threats against the embassy didn’t end at rioting and protests. Local nationals occasionally fired upon the embassy with small arms weapons to test the security’s response or as direct attacks on personnel.
“Several times throughout the exercise we were put in shoot-or-no-shoot scenarios,” said Covey. “In every situation we were able to identify a legitimate military target when one existed or identify when less-than-lethal force was necessary.”
As a culminating event for the exercise, a simulated vehicle born improvised explosive device was detonated within the VCP creating a mass casualty situation. Marines and Sailors responded by quickly setting up new security positions at the damaged VCP and triaging the dead and wounded. They then proceeded to evacuate the casualties to a nearby airfield, where they again set up a security posture while waiting for the casualties to be airlifted out.
As a leader of Marines you are always looking for your unit’s weaknesses alongside it’s strengths during a training evolution, according to Wiser.
“I’ve been trying to do that all week and I’ve only been able to find miniscule things. It’s always good from my position as a leader to see my guys putting out constantly,” said Wiser. “We can go anywhere in the world and need to be able to apply these skills to properly protect American assets the world over. As much as it might not be the most fun mission, it’s a critical one.”
With the conclusion of this training evolution, Company K gives SPMAGTF-CR-CC the capabilities to rapidly and successfully reinforce and defend the various consulates and embassies in the central command area of responsibility.