CAMP DAWSON, W. VA. -- Two teams from the Foreign Military Training Unit, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, successfully completed their Operational Readiness Exercise in Camp Dawson, West Virginia’s mountainous regions during a weeklong exercise.
Teams 4 and 6, Arabic and Russian language teams respectively, completed the exercise, which certifies they are now ready for their first deployment within the coming months.
“This ORE is the culmination exercise to evaluate them on their (standard operating procedures) and (tactics, techniques and procedures) before deploying on a real mission,” said Capt. Christian J. Pfeffer, ORE logistics officer, Headquarters Company, FMTU. “This allows us to remediate any weaknesses and shortfalls on the team after the ORE and allow the commander of FMTU to validate them if they were to deploy.”.
This marks the fourth ORE for FMTU, which has been activated a year and has since deployed four teams to South America and North Africa on real-world missions.
“We started out at Bogue Field almost a year ago and it was a very basic exercise with very few problems,” said Capt. William E. Eaton, ORE officer-in-charge. “Since then, we have been to OREs in South Carolina and Puerto Rico and we keep getting better. This is the best one yet.”
“What makes this ORE unique is the austere environment, language and distance between the teams,” said the 28-year-old Pfeffer.
Each team worked in two different areas, which represented two fictitious nations.
Team 4 worked in a river-valley-type region, while Team 6 worked in the mountains more than 2,000 feet above the other team.
“We came here in May for our (pre-deployment site survey) and were amazed at the training areas and knew they would work perfectly for both teams,” said Eaton, a 29-year-old native of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “It’s a radically different environment from Camp Lejeune. The support from the base personnel and facilities worked out great for this exercise.”
From the moment they arrived, the teams faced problems in the form of master event sequence lists, or “MESLs” and communications issues. The distance between the teams’ training sites them and the headquarters made the ORE even more challenging.
Even with normal problems with communication and transportation, they also had to deal with problems such as training conflicts and pay problems for the host nations’ troops.
“We implemented different MESLs to see how they would handle them,” said Gunnery Sgt. Hugo R. “Aggie” Aguilar, a site surveyor. “If they handle it well, we ease off of them a bit. But if they don’t, we keep adding more fuel to the fire until they work out a solution.”
Watching their actions from the shadows and marking down hits and misses are the evaluators, selected from staff members of FMTU to help judge the teams on their progress and offer advice after the exercise is complete.
“We look for professionalism, confidence in their skills, reactions to MESLs, attitude about the job and their progression,” said Gunnery Sgt. Kevin C. James, an evaluator from FMTU HQ.
This also gave their instructors--who trained them in specific fields, like communication and embarkation--a chance to see how they applied what they were taught and use it to help prepare future teams.
“There are several other evaluators and Army (Special Forces) guys who are watching them and seeing what they could be doing better and what should stay the same,” said James, a 31-year-old native of Norway, S.C.
The teams not only have to contend with the environment, MESLs and the ever-present eyes of the evaluators, but also the host-nation troops.
“We were fortunate to contract some civilian linguists and Marine volunteers from Marine Corps Barracks, 8th and I, to play our host nations,” said Eaton. “They get infantry and language skills in return that can be used for future deployments.”
The acting host nation troops played their part well by practicing drill movements, learning words and speaking to the instructors only in that language so they could keep the exercise as real as possible.
“This is very important and vital training for the team,” said Cpl. Stanley E. Sanderson, an embarker with FMTU HQ. “I’m excited to be a part of this exercise and glad to play a part in the unit’s history.”
The team executed their designated redeployment plan in the final days of the exercise, officially ending the ORE.
Teams 4 and 6 are scheduled to deploy later this year to the Middle East and Central Asia.