USA — Lynn Visits Simulation Center, Marines at Pendleton

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDELTON, Calif. — The rock­et-pro­pelled grenade that explod­ed over his head served as an effec­tive atten­tion-get­ting device dur­ing Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III’s vis­it to the 1st Marine Expe­di­tionary Force’s bat­tle sim­u­la­tion cen­ter here yes­ter­day.

Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III talks with Marines at Camp Pendleton
Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III talks with Marines at Camp Pendle­ton, Calif., April 26, 2010.
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The deputy sec­re­tary had a walk-through of the sim­u­la­tion cen­ter before going through it for real. Thomas Busce­mi, chief of the cen­ter, demon­strat­ed what an RPG sounds like for Lynn.

“The first time they hear this, the Marines say, ‘What a neat pyrotech­nic.’ The sec­ond time they hear this, they are on the deck, which is where we want them,” Busce­mi said.

The sim­u­la­tion cen­ter is where fire teams and squads go to get a taste of what they will face when they deploy to Afghanistan. Sce­nar­ios include not only kinet­ic encoun­ters that sim­u­late com­bat engage­ment, but also sit­u­a­tions that require deal­ing with local trib­al and reli­gious lead­ers.

“They do not know what sce­nario they will face when they enter the cen­ter,” Busce­mi said, “just as they won’t know what’s con­fronting them in Afghanistan.”

The cen­ter is in an old toma­to pack­ing plant on this sprawl­ing base, and Marines have tried to make it as real­is­tic as pos­si­ble. The smell – a mix­ture of sewage, rot­ted flesh and ani­mals – is straight out of parts of Bagh­dad or Kab­ul.

“Some of the vet­er­ans have flash­backs as soon as they catch the smell,” Busce­mi told Lynn. “We need them to tell the younger Marines that the last time they caught this smell, some­one was shoot­ing at them.”

Squads and fire teams run through a series of sce­nar­ios as they pre­pare to deploy. “We want them to see the things they will face in com­bat here, long before there are actu­al bul­lets fly­ing,” said Marine Sgt. Samuel Wal­ton of 2nd Bat­tal­ion, 1st Marines, a com­bat vet­er­an who now works at the cen­ter. The young sergeant has deployed to Iraq four times, and soon will deploy to Afghanistan. The cen­ter was up and run­ning for his last deploy­ment to Iraq, and it was “extreme­ly help­ful,” he said.

The cadre ran Lynn through the cen­ter. Lynn and his par­ty wore spe­cial masks to pro­tect them­selves as they got a taste of what young Marines go through.

The deputy sec­re­tary came away impressed with the cen­ter.

“We spend the vast major­i­ty of our sim­u­la­tion funds on air­planes and tanks and such, but 85 per­cent of our casu­al­ties are in small-unit actions,” Lynn said. “This is cer­tain­ly some­thing we should be look­ing at.”

The sim­u­la­tion cen­ter is only part of the train­ing that Marine units go through before deploy­ing. Com­pa­ny- and bat­tal­ion-lev­el exer­cis­es are part of Mojave Viper – a larg­er exer­cise at Twen­ty­nine Palms, a Marine base near Palm Springs.

In addi­tion to going through the sim­u­la­tion cen­ter, Lynn also vis­it­ed with mem­bers of the 1st Marine Divi­sion and stopped in at the wound­ed war­rior battalion’s new bar­racks.

The deputy sec­re­tary con­tin­ues his Cal­i­for­nia trip today with a vis­it to Van­den­berg Air Force Base and a speech to the World Affairs Coun­cil in Los Ange­les.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)