SHADOW RANGE, Iraq --
SHADOW RANGE, Iraq – Combined-arms training in Iraq was impossible until the Shadow Range opened just 16 kilometers from Al Asad Air Base Oct. 15.
Shadow Range, 325 sq. kilometers of combined-arms capable ranges, is slated to field its first five-day, platoon Combined-Arms Training Program Oct. 18.
“Down the road from (Provincial Iraqi Control), if the Marine Corps is going to have enduring missions, we need to have a place to train, and it had to be a place where we could work on the combined arms aspect,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Stuart J. White, Gunner, Advanced Infantry Training Center, Multi National Forces-West.
Provincial Iraqi Control means fewer Marines are patrolling Anbar’s streets, but for security and support purposes the MNF-W continues to maintain a presence in Anbar. The Shadow Range ensures that while Marines maintain presence, they continue to maintain training standards.
Prolonged counterinsurgency operations have diverted attention from the Corps’ combined-arms capability, said White. Shadow Range solves that problem.
“There is no other range in Anbar that allows you to conduct the level of training as you can at Shadow,” said White, 46, from Joshua Tree, Calif.
Shadow provides a venue for team to company-level training courses. Snipers can hone their shots on the sniper range or the elevated sniper range. Marines can practice throwing fragmentation grenades, and tankers can light up the night with live-fire, tactical tank maneuvering on the mechanized assault range.
There’s a platoon fixed-position assault range, where Marine commanders can put medium machineguns, small arms and light-infantry tactics together for a live-fire assault on a fixed objective. There’s also an aviation range, where pilots can bring the fight from the sky.
It’s all supported here at Shadow.
“Combined arms team-level, with M203 (grenade launchers) to the (Squad Automatic Weapons), to battalion aviation and artillery maneuvers; you can take it from its simplest form all the way to the level of doctrine, that’s what we want to do out here,” White said.
The range is built based on the needs of combat-arms battalions and companies, but training packages aren’t only for infantry. The nature of the Corps’ mission often thrusts support personnel into the role of base or convoy security operations. Shadow Range is free for any unit to schedule platoon through company level Combined Arms Training Program, or CATP, classes.
“Anyone can be tasked with anything. There are convoys and movements, supplies or whatever. Marines are always called to be riflemen, so the standards need to be put into place where they can be riflemen,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph B. Kairis, Chief Instructor, AITC, MNF-W.
Kairis also mentioned that deployment schedules often reduce time to train stateside. But as things slow down in Anbar, Shadow is there to help Marines pick up training where they ended before deployment.
“It gives the opportunity, now that operational tempo is a lot slower, it allows Marines to the keep the standard the Corps set for us to keep,” said Kairis, from Chicago. “(Shadow Range) will be the first of its kind out here … so with each (deployment) cycle, Marines can continue where they left off in the states.”
Mojave Viper, a month-long training evolution held in the Mojave Desert and designed to build a Marine unit’s combined-arms capabilities up from team to battalion, was the inspiration behind much of Shadow’s training design. A majority of the classes to be held here, although abbreviated, aim to maintain and even exceed the level of combat training taught in the Corps’ Pre-deployment Training Programs.
“The folks coming through here, they benefit because they get to sustain those skills they learned at Mojave Viper, and for the folks who didn’t go to Mojave Viper, it enables them to get a very high level of training they don’t usually get,” White said.
Classes range from a five-day package, focusing on team through platoon operations, to a ten-day package, focusing on team through company level operations. Short courses mean that units don’t have to operate without their Marines for long periods of time. The short-term sacrifice allow individual and team skills to remain sharp despite operating in a forward-deployed environment.
“Just because you’re in combat, doesn’t mean you don’t need training,” White said.
The AITC at Shadow Range will also offer a Tactical Small Unit Leaders Course, geared more toward support personnel rather than infantry, and a seven-day Female Search Team course. Units that desire training do not need to necessarily schedule an AITC course. Leaders can reserve ranges for any type of unit-driven refresher training.
Shadow Range is open for training while construction continues on the ranges and is expected to be full operational this upcoming December or January; in time for II Marine Expeditionary Force to take the reins in Anbar.