Photo Information

Sgt. Kimberly Barton, a team leader with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit female engagement team detachment, communicates with Yemenite role-players with an interpreter at Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 29. The 13th MEU is preparing for their upcoming deployment by immersing Marines in scenario-based training exercises to enhance and test their ability to work together and accomplish an assigned mission.

Photo by Cpl. Joshua Young

Advisor Training Cell preps female engagement team for Marine Expeditionary Unit employment

4 May 2013 | Cpl. Joshua Young

The Advisor Training Cell, I Marine Expeditionary Force, is providing scenario-based training for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s female engagement team detachment, at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The two-week training program is designed by the ATC staff to enhance and test the Marines' ability to work with the battalion landing team in accomplishing common MEU tasks such as embassy evacuations, establishing medical camps and community outreach. 

“It’s a very condensed version of the FET training we designed for Afghanistan,” said Sgt. Sheena Adams, the lead FET instructor with ATC, I MEF, who deployed with a female engagement team to Afghanistan in 2010. “I built their schedule and decided exactly what they needed to be able to go through.”

The training was conducted at the Infantry Immersion Trainer, a training area primarily used to prepare Marines for deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade. Role players representing citizens of Yemen and Somalia descent took part in the training to diversify the cultures of the training Marines will encounter.

The ATC designed the training to represent conflicts or challenges a MEU could face while deployed. 

“We had to adjust them to do more (expeditionary) activities rather than all combat elements like in Afghanistan,” said Adams, 27, from Kauai, Hawaii. “There are places and different locations they might go to when they’re on a MEU.”

An expeditionary unit’s mission can range from answering the call for war to providing humanitarian assistance for a country in need. The Marines are trained to adapt to many different scenarios, but the element of surprise can play a role in their response. 

“The MEU could be adapted to go anywhere at any time,” said Capt. David Keltner, the operations officer of ATC, I MEF. “Our instructors have real world experience adapting to the mission and carrying on the lessons of that into operations to interact with female populations. We’ve basically adapted the lessons we’ve learned from Operation Enduring Freedom to potential scenarios they might face. You have to be prepared for a large spectrum of warfare and humanitarian relief.”

The female Marines conducted several scenarios throughout the training. The ATC instructors critiqued the Marines following each scenario and provided feedback on what they did well or how they could improve. 

“They’re stumbling as they go through it, but they’re getting better as they go and they’re learning from the mistakes, which is what we wanted,” Adams said. “They’re getting there.” 

The female Marines are vital in building community relations, relationships with male and female foreign nationals, and de-escalating tense situations, explained Adams.

“We are able to adjust and help,” Adams said. “I think the FET has the capability that is key to any mission success.”

The FET detachment has been conducting the training side-by-side with the 13th MEU’s battalion landing team. The training gives the Marines opportunities to get to know each other before the deployment to develop better communication and cooperation.