MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Marines and sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted their first ever battalion-sized humanitarian assistance disaster response, mass casualty and non-combatant evacuation operation training evolution, here, Nov. 17-19.
In a simulated Afghan town, a scenario was staged in which the town had burned down and 1,000 people needed assistance with food, water and shelter. More than 30 role players participated in the exercise, giving CLB-15 a realistic training evolution.
With assistance from the Special Operations Training Group, CLB-15 conducted the multi-day exercise and experienced new obstacles they had not yet overcome as a battalion.
“As a junior battalion conducting their first humanitarian assistance disaster response, mass casualty and NEO exercise, I think the Marines demonstrated sufficient skills and knowledge,” said Lt. Col. John J. Wiener, commanding officer, CLB-15, 1st MLG. “There’s always room for improvement and training like today’s evolution sets us on the right course for our eventual deployment.”
The moment the Marines arrived at the mock town, role players began aggressively seeking aid, food and water. In response, Marines and sailors immediately set up their refugee camp and worked to organize the masses in desperate need.
“We don’t normally train on the humanitarian side,” said Lance Cpl. Alex W. Wilkens, ammunition technician, CLB-15, 1st MLG. “There’s a lot more to a MEU than just going to Afghanistan. Most of the training I’ve done before was just playing grunt and it’s important to learn how to deal with people who aren’t armed and are in need of help. Everyone thinks of Marines as going out to fight and not reaching out to help others.”
CLB-15 has conducted multiple field evolutions to prepare them for their change of operational control to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit early next year. Wiener said as part of a MEU, the most likely mission is a humanitarian assistance disaster response operation.
During the mass casualty drill, corpsmen attached to the CLB-15 took on the responsibility of providing aid to the multiple victims from the local town. Role players wore makeup to simulate real-life wounds. As Marines posted security and eliminated the enemy, corpsmen began their triage, working on patients while waiting for two CH-46s to touch down and provide medical evacuations.
Flying out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, aircraft with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 flew out to pick up the casualties. Groups of litter bearers carried wounded civilians to the aircraft, evacuating the highest priority patients.
During the evacuations, some of the role players acted as insurgents, shooting at civilians, Marines and sailors.
“Originally this mission was just supposed to be a medical evacuation mission,” said Cpl. Joshua Ruiz, landing support specialist, CLB-15, 1st MLG. “It seemed like insurgents had pushed through this town and they let the (military police) take charge of security, which is exactly what should happen. Rehearsals helped a lot and in doing so, each Marine knew his part and played his role.”
Wiener went on to say that while most MEU battalions have rollovers from previous deployments, CLB-15 only has five Marines with prior deployment experience. He said starting from scratch is one of the biggest challenges CLB-15 will face.