MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
It all happened so fast. As the point man rounded the corner, an improvised explosive device detonated right in front of him. Within seconds, he was hit in the thigh from enemy fire coming from a building nearby, and a villager close by had both his legs blown off. Now came the moment of truth. The squad leader from 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, had to make a decision – and fast. Would he go in and rescue the wounded civilian, return fire, assault the building or retreat to a safer location?
Such was the scenario a squad of Marines from 3rd Bn., 8th Marines encountered when they went through the new Infantry Immersion Trainer, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, today.
The personnel in charge of the Infantry Immersion Trainer wanted to show commanders, many of who were in charge of infantry units, what the ITT was capable of and the benefits it had for squad leaders.
“Company commanders go through a lot of training and instruction prior to being in charge of a company,” said Vince Soto, site lead of IIT. “Now fast-forward to (Operation Enduring Freedom) and what we have is a squad leader doing the same functions that that company commander did with a fraction of the training. Now you have a squad leader out there making decisions at a tactical level that could have implications on a strategic and operational level, without the education and training that we’ve provided for our captains.
What the IIT is designed to do is allow that squad leader to take everything he has at his disposal, put it into training and conduct offensive and defensive operations in a counter insurgency environment before he goes to Mojave Viper at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., and then into a deployed environment.
“The focus of Mojave Viper training is at the battalion and regimental level,” said Soto. “So the focus of the squad leader is kind of (missing). This is the last place he will get to solely focus on the squad leader to do his job with all his enablers and it will be part of their pre-deployment training in the late Block Two early Block Three area.”
The ITT contains both simulators and live Afghan role-players, who are brought in from California to act out villager and insurgent roles. It is an active village, complete with smells of spices, meat and dust.
While the ITT is new to MCB Camp Lejeune, it is not new to the Marine Corps. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton was the first base to have an IIT where squad leaders could hone their skills. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune took the best of Camp Pendleton’s indoor and outdoor trainers and combined it into one state-of-the-art facility.
“This training is vital to the tactical success of a squad in combat whether they’re in a conventional or counter insurgency environment,” said Soto. “These Marines can and do have an influence and their decisions that can impact war.”
Scenarios for the ITT are limitless. Although some scenarios can be similar, it is the decisions that the squad leaders make that turn each training event into its own unique scenario. After a run-through, the Marines can get instantaneous feedback from the enemy and friendly perspective, as well as anything Soto’s men see the Marines can improve on.
“This is very, very close to a deployed environment minus the actual rounds flying,” said Soto. “Here, we can replicate sounds, smell, sight and culture. If I want, I can make an (improvised explosive device) area smell like freshly turned dirt. It’s the best training available for any squad leader.”