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In urban-combat practice, a Marine with the Combined Assault Battalion checks the corners of a room for enemy personnel before moving to the next room at Combat Town on Camp Hansen on Thursday. “This is as close as you can get to the real thing,” said Cpl. Eric Starns, who recently returned from five months in Afghanistan.

In urban-combat practice, a Marine with the Combined Assault Battalion checks the corners of a room for enemy personnel before moving to the next room at Combat Town on Camp Hansen on Thursday. “This is as close as you can get to the real thing,” said Cpl. Eric Starns, who recently returned from five months in Afghanistan. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)

In urban-combat practice, a Marine with the Combined Assault Battalion checks the corners of a room for enemy personnel before moving to the next room at Combat Town on Camp Hansen on Thursday. “This is as close as you can get to the real thing,” said Cpl. Eric Starns, who recently returned from five months in Afghanistan.

In urban-combat practice, a Marine with the Combined Assault Battalion checks the corners of a room for enemy personnel before moving to the next room at Combat Town on Camp Hansen on Thursday. “This is as close as you can get to the real thing,” said Cpl. Eric Starns, who recently returned from five months in Afghanistan. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)

Marines from Combined Assault Battalion employ basic infantry tactics Thursday to ensure the stairway is clear of enemy troops before moving to the second story of a building at Combat Town on Camp Hansen.

Marines from Combined Assault Battalion employ basic infantry tactics Thursday to ensure the stairway is clear of enemy troops before moving to the second story of a building at Combat Town on Camp Hansen. (C. Nuntavong / U.S. Marine Corps)

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — About 60 Marines took to the streets of Combat Town here for a refresher course in urban military tactics on Thursday.

Marines of Combined Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, used infantry tactics to patrol streets, clear rooms and maneuver in the closed environment of Combat Town — a mock-up of a city street with about seven buildings constructed closely together.

Urban environment operations are very different from operations in a jungle or field, said Warrant Officer Jay Durham, 32, of Seattle. Marines in a city environment must be concerned about threats from three levels, he said: rooftops, ground level and sewers.

The challenge, said 3rd Marine Division commanding officer Lt. Col. Michael Carter, is that city environments offer many more places for enemies to hide. Marines must be aware of this while also being ready to protect any noncombatant civilians they might encounter, he said.

Half the Marines acted as an assault force that swept through the town trying to clear out the occupiers, played by the rest of the division Marines. To make the training more realistic, Marines used “simunitions,” Durham said. Simunitions are paintball-like ammunition consisting of 9 mm marking cartridges that can be fired from unmodified M16A2 rifles.

The training was good preparation for an actual urban battlefield, said Cpl. Eric Starns, 26, from State College, Pa. Starns recently returned from five months deployment in Afghanistan.

“This is as close as you can get to the real thing,” he said. “There was more control here and more confusion” in real combat … but “it is still the best training you can get for the real thing.”

Carter said while the training mimicked conditions in Iraq, it wasn’t meant just as a preparation for deployment there.

“Yes, we want to be ready to go to Iraq but our focus is to be ready to go anywhere in the world — anywhere we can go in an urban environment,” he said.


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