MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- The Marines and Sailors of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit know that the better their training is now, the better prepared they will be during their upcoming deployment. Throughout workups so far, two important elements have been adherence to rules of engagement and the importance of rear-area security.
Sunday night, the importance of both subjects was demonstrated for real.
Shortly before midnight, a car ran through the MEU's concertina-wire perimeter at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, where the Fighting 13th has been conducting Training in an Urban Environment Exercises (TRUEX).
The driver of what was described as a small Nissan sedan proceeded about 100 yards down the road, where he attempted to smash through a gate onto the secure section of March. When he failed to breach the fence, he turned around and tried to proceed back from where he came. At that point, he was face-to-face with at least a half-dozen Marines with M-16A2s, locked and loaded and aimed at him. He quickly surrendered.
"I was in the building playing cards with the react force," said Cpl. Robert Voskoyan, a 13th MEU intelligence Marine who was standing Corporal of the Guard duty at the time of the incident. "Then this guy came busting through the gate. Me and the react Marines grabbed our weapons and were out the door in about 10 seconds."
The Marines ordered the driver out of the vehicle and onto the street. They kept weapons trained on him until Air Force Security Police from March arrived. The driver was later taken into custody by Moreno Valley Police.
"When the SPs showed up, we had a 360-degree perimeter established around the guy," said Voskoyan. "When they saw how we had him covered, one of the SPs said, "That's why I like you Marines. You don't mess around.'"
Officers from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department bomb squad arrived and deployed a remote-controlled robot to the vehicle. The robot used a charge to blow open the vehicle's trunk and scan the interior for explosives and other hazardous materials. A deputy then proceeded to the vehicle for another inspection, after which the vehicle was determined to pose no further threat. The Marines watched the procedures on a monitor to which the robot's camera images were broadcast.
After the "All Clear" was sounded, the Marines reported back to their posts, but not before receiving high praise for their conduct.
"You guys reacted perfectly to this," said Capt. Jim Williams, assistant logistics officer for the MEU, to Voskoyan and several of his guards. "I can't imagine any scenario where you could have executed this any better."
The Marines said it was a matter of training and drills that helped them in the situation.
"You didn't even have to think, it was just a reflex of what to do," said Lance Cpl. Michael Kennedy, ground sensor platoon Marine and member of the react force.
"It was a good thing we had the rules-of-engagement training," said Lance Cpl. Richard Davis, a data systems specialist. Plus, we realized there were houses in the background. We just tried to use the minimum force necessary to get this guy to comply."
Their skilled use of ROE also earned them kudos from the folks who do it for a living.
"They showed great restraint, it was very impressive," said Moreno Valley Police Sgt. Don Teagarden. "'I'm not even sure I could have shown the same level of restraint. Outstanding job."