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Royal Marines fight through abandoned hospital complex

3 September 2019
Royal Marines entered battle through underground tunnels and fought through an abandoned hospital complex on dense urban operations training in the USA.

Charlie Company of Taunton-based 40 Commando fought alongside the United States Marine Corps (USMC) at the derelict site in Muscatatuck, Indiana.

What was once a secure hospital complex – home to around 3,000 patients and 2,000 staff – has been turned into an extraordinary urban training centre by the US military, and is now a place where the Americans train in warfighting, cyberwarfare and disaster relief operations. 

The zone – which looks like a scene out of a post-apocalyptic film – features submerged villages, derailed trains, Iraqi market thoroughfares, Djibouti shanty towns, plus a mock tailors, schools, banks and a TV shop.

Since the 1,000 acre facility was first abandoned ten years ago, the Americans have amped up the complex’s abandoned-feel: adding scrap vehicles, including buses, cars, planes and helicopters, which have been scattered across roads to add obstacles for troops to fight through.

While in Muscatatuck, Charlie Company embedded with a USMC company and, in true commando style, entered combat through underground tunnels while the Americans battled along above on the streets.

The two forces then combined to clear through the hospital to win a close-quarters battle against a realistic enemy peer in the main event of the dense urban operations training deployment.

“The hospital has certainly been one of the most challenging and exciting places we’ve had to work in,” said Marine Pace of Charlie Company.

“It’s a massive, great big building. We found out effectively it just got shut down overnight. The employees left and left everything in situ.

“So we’ve got equipment, we’ve got beds strewn all over the actual hospital itself. You’ve got many different levels to have to clear through.

“You’ve also got a basement with an extensive tunnel network underneath as well.”

During their mission in Indiana, the commandos used the American M4 rifle, which brings advantages to close-quarters battle.

I’ve loved it. I think the way the commandos operate, the individual skills, they’re bar none

Sergeant Hazel, USMC

Marine Pace added: “It can be used in both arms which is massively helpful. The benefit to that is that we are able to appear around corners without having to fully expose our bodies.

“It’s also lighter, so it allows us to keep our aim for much longer periods of time. We haven’t experienced any stoppages with the rifle either.”

The Royal Marines certainly made an impression on their USMC allies and are continuing to prove their ability to quickly integrate and operate with a variety of global partners.

“I’ve loved it. I think the way the commandos operate, the individual skills, they’re bar none,” said Sergeant Hazel of the USMC.

This urban fighting workout is excellent training for the theatres of war Royal Marines could operate in the future.

At Muscatatuck there was also the addition of training with emerging technologies which provide tactical advantages, fitting into the Royal Marines’ continued evolution in to the Future Commando Force.

During the Muscatatuck deployment, 40 Commando worked with remote piloted assets. That includes tracked vehicles fitted for lift or fire support, plus a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles used offensively or for surveillance.

“The approach by the USMC experimental teams has been looking at the needs of their marines and then finding existing products to fulfil that need – plus a small amount of retro-fitting if needed,” said Lieutenant Simon Williams of 40 Commando.

Now the marines look towards further training with the United States with exercises planned in California next month on Exercise Green Dagger.

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