Actors Help Train Marines to Hunt Rogue Chemist
Commandos’ anti-Al Qaeda mission may involve chemical weapons
On April 16, the Marine Corps component of U.S. Special Operations Command agreed to hire civilians to play terrorists in an upcoming training exercise. The contract offers a window into how American commandos prepare themselves—and where they might be headed.
According to the contract, 25 actors will work with Company M, 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion between April and June. The contractor, BKM Enterprises, will also supply AK rifles and blank ammunition.
The Marines will practice their skills in Charleston, Ruffin and Beaufort, South Carolina. The contract documents say the sites allow for training in both “urban and rural environments.”
Company M is in the process of training for an upcoming deployment. The two eight-day exercises will cover what the Pentagon calls “Special Reconnaissance” and “Direct Action.”
Special recon generally involves commandos hiding behind enemy lines for extended periods to figure out what’s going on. Direct action is, well, taking direct lethal action against the enemy.
Training like this is hardly out of the ordinary for Special Operations Forces. Commandos regularly use actors and fake buildings—like those pictured below—to simulate real world situations.
However, the specific requirements for the role players are particularly interesting in this case. One of the actors will play an “AQ [Al Qaeda] personality.”
Two more role players will stand in for “high value insurgents” or HVIs. Actors will also play “lower level bad guys” and generic foot soldiers.
One of the pretend HVIs must be fluent in French. The actor playing this terrorist also has to have a college eduction in chemistry.
We don’t know where the Marines are going or what their mission will be. However, the training likely reflects what the Marines expect to be doing at least to some degree.
The Levant region, where French is commonly spoken, is one possibility. Chemical weapons have already been used in Syria’s brutal civil war.
Washington has already stationed hundreds of troops in neighboring Jordan in case Syria collapses or the civil war expands. The Pentagon no doubt has plans to try and keep nerve gas out of terrorists’ hands if either of those things happen.
Of course, Syrian president Bashar Al Assad has agreed to dismantle his chemical arsenal. However, the international effort has suffered numerous delays and discrepancies.
North Africa, where French is also a common language, is another possible destination. After the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the U.S. and others worried about terrorists getting into Libya’s chemical stockpile.
But unlike Syria, Libya reportedly destroyed its toxic gases in February. The country also plans to eliminate stores of chemicals that could be made into weapons.
The training scenario could also be entirely hypothetical. Special Operations Command says its commandos are prepared for “Actions … to locate, seize, destroy or capture, recover and render [weapons of mass destruction] safe.”
In this case, the mention of Al Qaeda might just provide a generic context. The group has repeatedly expressed a desire to get WMDs.
Company M will no doubt make good use of the realistic training whatever their mission turns out to be. We’ll just have to wait and see if the Marines end up tracking down an Al Qaeda leader and a rogue francophone chemist.