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Exercise highlights MARSOC's role in Philippines

Jul. 28, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
A sailor gives instructions to his Philippine counterpart during a live firing of an M-60 on June 28 at the naval base in Sangley point, Cavite City, west of Manila, as part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercises. (Ted Aljibe / AFP via Getty Images)
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Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command wants help conducting an elaborate role-player exercise to prepare soon-to-deploy operators for missions in the Philippines.

The exercise, far more complex than the standard infantry unit pre-deployment work-up, will allow operators to hone skills in direct action, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare. It’s set to occur in August at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Fort A.P. Hill, Va.

To enhance the event’s realism, MARSOC is looking to the defense industry to supply role players, who will most likely portray “an opposing force type of flavor” during the training, according to MARSOC’s notice to contractors, published online in June. They’ll speak Tagalog, the indigenous language throughout much of the Philippines.

Role-player exercises are not new, but the locale this one will mimic is.

“The command has run similar exercises for more than four years now,” said Staff. Sgt. Robert Storm, a MARSOC spokesman, referencing past efforts to prepare personnel for operations in Afghanistan. “Scenarios have previously been Afghan-centric, but we can adapt the scenarios according to our pre-deployment training needs.”

For the past several years, MARSOC has deployed small teams to the Pacific island nation on a rotational basis, part of Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines. There, they’ve taken part in a broader effort, led by U.S. Special Operations Command, to support the Philippine military’s long struggle with terrorism and international crime.

The Philippines is home to radical Islamist groups allied with al-Qaida. Militants there threaten the central government, lay claim to large swaths of territory, and are a source of recruiting, material and financial support for terrorist groups abroad.

Additionally, the country is located in a region where piracy threatens one of the world’s primary shipping routes for energy resources and goods.

It is part of what U.S. officials have termed the Arc of Instability, an area plagued by shortages in basic needs such as water and food, with weak or corrupt governments and young populations that suffer high unemployment. Those conditions create a perfect storm of instability that could threaten national security and world commerce.

The exercise in August will feature “varied political, military, economic, social, infrastructure and information systems, and include both traditional and irregular threats based on potential real world adversaries,” MARSOC’s solicitation reads.

Also among the requirements, contractors developing the exercise must tailor it to current events in the Philippines, using “real world intelligence and locations with synthetic geography overlaid on the training area.” That will include urban and rural areas.

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