Peace Time: September 4, 2002

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Every time there's a war, the troops adjust their peacetime training routines to reflect the realities peacetime training tends to drift away from. The brief (about a month) presence of about a thousand U.S. Marines in Afghanistan had that effect. Several changes are going to be made in marine training because of the Afghanistan experience. For one thing, marines will be given more training in how to dig holes in the ground (foxholes, trenches and the like). Over the last decade, government environmental regulations have restricted how much the marines can dig in their training areas. The only way you learn to quickly create field fortifications (as foxholes and trenches are called) is to practice. The marines thought they could placate the environmentalists, and not have their guys dig a lot of holes during field exercises. The thinking was, digging is simple. The young marines will catch up real quick when they are in hostile territory. Since this sort of thing had never been done before, there were no senior NCOs who could say, "but sir, that won't work." But once the marines landed in Afghanistan, and were ordered to start digging in, the NCOs who knew how to dig effective fortifications (before environmental concerns limited combat training), saw that it wasn't work. The marines say they will work out some kind of deal so they can do more digging in peacetime. But digging wasn't the only training lapse the marines discovered. They found that their ability to deal with landmines was very inadequate. Ancient mine clearing equipment and not enough realistic training caused the marines more trouble with mines than with hostile Afghans. 


 


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