CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – “We need food and water,” chanted the crowd loudly in Filipino as they grew more and more restless. The few dozen Marines and
sailors in the medical aid station did their best to keep the peace while providing treatment to casualties caused by a typhoon that ravaged the area.
These were just a few of the challenges faced by personnel with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, Headquarters Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group, during
pre-deployment training with the Special Operations Training Group, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 16, 2014.
The training simulation, set up by SOTG with the help of role-players, put CLB-15’s Marines and sailors in the middle of a typhoon-ravaged, rural
Philippine area where they were tasked with providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief, similar to the situation faced by Marines with the 3rd Marine
Expeditionary Force during the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
“Eighty percent of the population of the world resides within a hundred miles of the coast, making the Marine Corps’ role as an amphibious force in
readiness important,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Ferguson, field evaluator for humanitarian aid and disaster relief course with SOTG, IMEF. “CLB-15 is
deploying with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, where they might be called on to conduct full-on combat operations or provide humanitarian assistance
as we are rehearsing here.”
The exercise took place over the course of three days, and provided CLB-15 with a realistic and immersive experience. The fog of war, language barriers
and logistical issues were just a few of the problems the Marines and sailors faced.
“We have a hundred Filipino role-players here to simulate an actual population,” said Ferguson, a native of Los Gatos, Calif. “It creates a cultural and
language barrier that immerses the Marines in a high-tension, realistic scenario.”
The rapidly changing situation forced Marines to improvise and be resourceful. They coordinated with the local government to provide water, food, medical
assistance and security to the locals during the fluctuating training environment.
“The language barrier added an entirely different dimension to the mission,” said 1st Lt. Nikolas Gillespie, survey team officer-in-charge, CLB-15, 1st
MLG. “Some of our Marines speak the language so that helps and it gives the Marines a chance to prove themselves and show how much they can contribute to
Furthermore, the training provided the Marines with a chance to work together as a team in a high-stress environment, building unit cohesion between CLB-
15’s Marines and sailors and increasing the interoperability of the unit.
“The training has been very beneficial for me and my Marines,” said Gillespie, a native of Limestone, Tenn. “They’ve had to overcome challenges which they
haven’t encountered in garrison and we’ve learned a lot working with civilians and a different host nation. Teamwork was the most important thing in
overcoming a lot of the situations we encountered today.”
Some of the Marines and sailors who participated in the exercise already have firsthand experience operating in an overseas humanitarian aid and disaster
relief mission, and provided the junior members with their knowledge and experience.
“For some of my Marines, this was the first time they’ve encountered such a chaotic situation,” said Cpl. Michael Beck, an electrician with CLB-15, 1st
MLG, who has conducted missions in the Philippines before. “In the end, we just applied the combat-ready mindset we always do, prioritized our objectives
and took control of the situation. It was a good learning experience for everyone involved.”