By Sgt. Michelle Reif, II Marine Expeditionary ForceJuly 20, 2016
FORT A.P. HILL, Virginia -- Throughout the world, U.S. embassies represent a small piece of American soil within a foreign nation. They serve as a home base from which ambassadors can conduct diplomatic affairs and act as a safe haven for U.S. citizens residing overseas.
Marine security guards are currently stationed at more than 150 embassies worldwide and carry the incredible task of keeping them safe. However, when the threat of violence and turmoil towards an embassy becomes rampant, backup is never more than a phone call away.
The 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, conducted embassy reinforcement training at the Asymmetric Warfare Training Center at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, June 27-29, as part of their certification process to support such missions.
"Embassy reinforcement is basically where we take a force of Marines and supplement the existing security at the embassy as well as help out with any additional security needs," said 1st Lt. Daniel Deminski, the Embassy Reaction Force platoon commander with Fox Company.
The Asymmetric Warfare Training Center is home to an exceptionally realistic training site, which contains a 5-story embassy building, a working train and subway station, and multiple other buildings such as a church, synagogue, day care center and fire department. The site also employs more than a hundred role-players to act as local citizens for the Marines to interact with.
"The role players are here to make it as realistic as possible so that the Marines are really getting some good training," Deminski said. "When the Marines are manning their security posts, they can get the real feeling of these actors that can actually speak the language and are acting aggressively."
The training began with the platoon arriving at the embassy via aerial insert from a MV-22 Osprey. Once on the ground, the Marines made their way through a crowd of curious civilians to the embassy gate.
The training scenario that followed involved unsatisfied locals attempting to enter the embassy grounds illegally. The Marines were forced to take action and detain the civilians before the adversaries could rebel. Later in the day, a simulated mob swarmed the gate in retaliation. The unruly crowd chanted and hammered against the fence hoping to prompt a reaction from the Marines impassively standing watch on the other side. Despite the jeers and thrown bricks, the Marines never wavered in their resolve.
"If there is any civil unrest in the area or if there is any danger of an embassy to be overrun or anything of that sort, we get sent in to reinforce it, to beef it up," said Cpl. Charles White, a squad leader with the unit. "We train for any situation that may come up such as riots, mass casualties or shooters."
An important aspect of the training for the platoon was the opportunity to train alongside Marine Security Augment Unit personnel. MSAU Marines serve as a pre- and post-crisis security force to supplement MSG units. During the training exercise, the Marines gained valuable insight and knowledge from the experiences MSAU had to offer.
"The biggest thing that I want the Marines to come out of here with is the feeling that they have conducted some real training that will actually be used in a deployment," Deminiski said. "This is stuff that we might actually be called upon to do when we deploy. This is some very realistic training in an awesome facility and we have excellent role players that make it feel like we are actually reinforcing an embassy."