Camp Lejeune Marines on a mission
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Camp Lejeune is a very busy place as Marines get ready to ship off to Afghanistan. Their missions are varied, but none more so than the MEU - the Marine Expeditionary Unit. The rapid-response unit launches from ships, landing by sea or by air. It is only the second unit to use the Osprey on deployment. The MEU is trained to carry out 43 diffrerent kinds of missions - from acting as a strike force, to rescuing personnel, to what they did when we visited - responding with medics to a mass casualty scenario. It could be all too real in Afghanistan or Iraq. Lt. Michael Doss describes the scenario: "Two insurgents dressed up as civilians had IED's on them. One of them they stopped before hand, but the other went into the building and blew himself up." "They're going to send in a team of 100 or so Marines to clear the building of threats and treat casualties," adds Sgt. Robert Piper. For medics and corps men, this mission requires a certain mind-set: Assure security before saving lives. "One of the key points of this training is to maintain that security, secure hazards, and then effectively treat and triage and get those casualties out of there," explains Chief Shawn Porter. One of the greatest challenges Marines face in situations like this is figuring out who's friendly and who's hostile. It's often a split-second call, and lives may hang on it. Minimizing civilian casualties was something that was stressed by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen when he spoke to deploying Marines at Camp Lejeune on Monday. Sgt. Piper agrees, that's no small task. "It's always hard," he says. "You have to carefully balance the ability to attack the enemy without putting civilians in danger, which takes a lot of training and a lot of careful tactics and planning. But fortunately, the Marine Corps is good at all of those things and we've been successful at it thus far." At the end of the battle, the Marines know this is as much a war for hearts and minds as it is for territory. The exercise was all about saving Afghan civilians. "People think of the Marine Corps and 'we're going to go in and kick some butt.' At the same time this training today, mass cas training, is not about going in and kicking butt. It's about going in and saving lives and helping out people," says Lt. Doss. It's about helping them out in more ways than medically. Sgt. Piper tells us "it all comes back to securing the area and making the people feel safe." The 24th MEU will have more fire power than previous MEU units, and an armored vehicle designed to fly inside the Osprey. The 22nd MEU is just returning from a seven month deployment.

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A few of us were around the last time this nation jumped on the counterinsurgency bandwagon. If you were in the Army or Marines in the 1965-1975 time frame, you know that every school and every extension training source had twenty or thirty courses on counterinsurgency and internal defense development. It's easy to gauge how successful our counterinsurgency was in Vietnam. In fact, with the exception of the British operations in Malaysia in the early Fifties, history is rather empty when it comes to successful, third-nation supported counterinsurgencies. (And one can argue that the Malayan Federation, still officially under British protection prior to full independence, wasn't a true third-party operation. The Malaysians were quite used to them being there.) Whether you love Rush Limbaugh or hate him, it's hard to argue with one of his most brilliant (and blatant) observations: "The military is here to kill people and break things." The military is not here to serve as target duty in some half-hearted effort that often requires retreat when the killing starts. We've been involved in the Afghan insurgency for over eight years, and the Iraqi insurgency for over six. Our results to date are a Taliban that is nearly as strong as it was eight years ago when the Rangers first landed. We've had hundreds of Iraqis killed by insurgents just this week. Considering all that, the lieutenant would be far better off concentrating on "kicking butt"....if he was allowed to. After all, it's not his fault that he has to take orders passed down from civilian politicians who have no idea what they're doing when it comes to warfighting.