Infantry: August 30, 2002

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The 22 August issue of the Wall Street Journal features an excellent article by Greg Jaffe on a recent United States Marine Corps urban warfare exercise held at the former George Air Force Base. Located 60 minutes from Los Angeles in Victorville, the old air base has about 1,000 abandoned buildings packed into a half-mile square area. This part of the base has been christened "al-George", after an imaginary Middle Eastern city.

The five-week long MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) experiment, which started in June, ultimately pitted a 980-marine Infantry Battalion against 160 Marine reservists in a four-day long exercise. The event apparently proved to be a rude awakening. Despite wielding a 6-to-1 advantage, the Marine force still took about 100 casualties. But like any exercise win-or-lose, the real value comes in the "Lessons Learned". Oddly enough, in an era where all of the "experts" are looking towards light armored vehicles as America's battlefield salvation, one USMC epiphany is that young Marines need to learn to work with tanks.

In the last few years urban warfare has taken center stage in both Army and Marine training circles, hopefully in time to prevent another Mogadishu-style event. Since there are indicators that Iraq's Republican Guard has stepped up it's own urban warfare training, the Lessons Learned at al-George might soon be put to proof on the battlefield. - Adam Geibel

 


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