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Coalition Forces Train for Urban Operations

23 Jul 2009 | Cpl. Cristina Noelia Gil

Australian soldiers from 3rd Royal Australian Regiment and U.S. Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in an urban assault at the Joint Combat Training Capability Urban Operations Training Facility as part of Exercise Talisman Saber 2009.

The UOTF resembles an urban town, allowing troops to train for current operations in such settings. It consists of a city center, complex housing buildings, a school, hospital and other facilities typical in an urban environment.

As the combined forces made their way to the town they were to free from insurgents, they were hit with a series of obstacles, including mock improvised explosive devices, mines and enemy fire.

"This is the best training an infantryman can get. We get out here and practice fundamental skills that we're using in Iraq and Afghanistan," said 1st Lt. Jake Grader, 2nd Plt. Commander, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. "This is what it's all about. From here, we can think about what we need to improve and what we did right to be ready for the real thing."

For each group entering the facility, role players enact scenarios based on the unit's training needs. Australian soldiers from 3 Troop, 9 Field Squadron, 1st Combat Engineer Regiment acted as the opposing forces for the Marines and 3 RAR.

To make the environment as realistic as possible, they set up obstacles within the town and set up strategic positions throughout the area to engage the forces as they advanced toward the town.

"We did a lot of improvising to delay their advance into the town. We tried to make it as realistic as possible so they can get the most out of their training here," said Australian Army Lt. John Leathley, commander of 3 Troop, 9 Field Squadron, 1 Combat Engineer Regiment.

Using cameras on the training grounds, observer/trainers can monitor and record the unit's actions. After going through the town, units perform an after action review using the footage to identify their mistakes and measure their proficiency.

"It's important for a unit to know their strengths and weaknesses, what works and what doesn't. This facility allows units to enhance the abilities of their tactics, equipment, leaders and [fellow service members,]" said Australian army Col. Ashley Gunder, commander of the Australian Army Combat Training Center and a native of Townsville.

The training proved to be beneficial to the Marines and soldiers and gave them a taste of what to expect, should they end up in a real-world urban combat situation.

"Operating in an urban environment isn't easy. It's dangerous. I think a lot of our guys will take that with them for future operations," said Grader, a Marblehead, Mass., native.

"It was a real eye-opener. This is where we learn from our mistakes, in a setting that's as close to real-world as you can get," said Houston, Texas, native Cpl. Dominic Nunciato, a forward observer with K Co., 3/5. "It emphasized the importance of situational awareness."

TS09 is a biennial combined training activity, designed to train Australian and U.S. forces in planning and conducting combined task force operations, which will help improve Australian defence force/ U.S. combat readiness and inter-operability.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit