Cyborgs or universal soldiers?

21 Nov 2002 | Lance Cpl. G. Lane Miley

The pilot used the helicopter's full capabilities as he banked each turn and nearly skimmed the surface of the New River. Aboard, infantry warriors armed to the teeth with mortars, grenades and a tank's firing capabilities awaited the bird's landing. Upon landing at Tactical Landing Zone Hawk, Marines from K Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, unloaded and tactically moved through the woods to Combat Town. There, the unit used the Marine Corps' new Multi-Integrated Laser Engagement System 2000 during its recent Military Operations in Urban Terrain training."Flying with (Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-464) gives these Marines a good chance to practice their helo-born skills and gets them used to working in sticks. It keeps our skills sharp. We are the Helo Company for the battalion, so any time we get the chance to fly is good," said 1st Lt. D. Alistair Durant, K Company executive officer. "Not only does it help us, it helps the pilots meet their training standards by flying with Marines aboard."The Marines stayed low as they trudged through the muddy, pine-needle-covered forest floor. The grey clouds overhead continued to pelt the warriors with a cold, drizzling rain as they neared the MOUT facility."We have high expectations for the MILES 2000 gear," said Durant. "It allows us to track the rounds - friendly and enemy - and with that knowledge, the Marines can develop better practices for urban fighting."Urban warfare produces many casualties because of its unpredictability and the fact the enemy usually has a better knowledge of the area than American warriors. Some Marines acted as enemy aggressors while others simulated an attack on the town's various buildings. Each combatant was fitted with his personal set of the MILES 2000 gear. The gear has a beam that attaches to the Marine's weapon -- four sensors on both the chest and back and four more that fit onto the Marine's helmet that can indicate a hit or even a near miss."Anything that is going to give us an advantage for more realistic combat is always a plus," said field radio operator Lance Cpl. Victor M. Rivas. Rivas, a Houston native who's practiced urban warfare before, said this is much better than the "blank warfare" in which the Marines fire blank rounds from their weapons. Sergeant Kevin C. Poss, platoon sergeant, agreed and said the combination of the blanks and MILES 2000 should prove useful for his group of men.After the smoke cleared and the beeping of the "killed" Marines subsided, Rivas added the importance of the training."On a scale from one to 10, this is a 10," he said. "This is definitely a skill infantry Marines need to hone."The Marines practiced movement techniques in an urban environment, including night movements, gaining a foothold in a building occupied by the enemy, and room clearing techniques during the evolution. For the room clearing, they used simulated ammunition called "cesms." These paint-filled 9 mm rounds are fired from their M-16s."We are using the crawl, walk, run method," said Staff Sgt. Robert M. Youngblood, 2nd Platoon's platoon commander. "Last week, we studied the fundamentals in the classroom. This week, we brought the Marines out here to work and evaluate each aspect of MOUT training, and we will culminate it with squad attacks."The Marines received immediate feedback after each run-through at the facility."We're conducting debriefs to correct any mistakes and give them a chance to voice any discrepancies they saw," said Youngblood, a Jacksonville, Fla., native. "It keeps the Marines from making the same mistakes twice. This is definitely preparing them well."Nearly everyone said they felt the training was helpful and said the gear was a great teaching tool. Youngblood said the gear made the training more realistic but stressed the importance of listening to the beeps and playing by the rules."The main key is that they adhere to the tones," said the platoon commander. "If it says you're dead, be dead. The (Special Effects Small Arms Marking System) training is going to be even better. There's no question about it."The Marines took full advantage of their time at the training facility. They conducted day and night training, and everyone saw both sides of the training by playing the role of the aggressor. After their time at Combat Town, the Marines hiked the 12 to 15 miles back to their battalion headquarters.