In the classic star-studded 1967 war movie, The Dirty Dozen, Lee Marvin (Major Reisman), and his band of death row commandos, are given one last chance.
Take the headquarters of the opposing force in an upcoming war games, and earn the right to be part of a daring D-Day mission at a German held chateau in France … or fail, and be sent back to the hangman’s noose for military crimes.
In Hollywood fashion, they would pull it off — tricking the opposing force with a fake Jeep accident. In the end, a lot of Germans would get killed, and only Marvin and Charles Bronson — both World War II vets — would survive.
I can watch this film again and again.
So how realistic are war games, in reality? You’ll have to ask US forces, who just got their clock cleaned by UK troops in similar fashion, in the Mojave desert.
Worse yet, the Yanks tried to change the rules of the Green Dagger war games, part-way into the disaster.
According to a report in the UK’s Daily Mail, Royal Marine commandos “dominated” the famed US Leathernecks (a slang term for United States Marine Corps) and forced them into a humiliating surrender just days into the mass training exercise.
British forces took part in a five-day mock battle at the US Marine Corps’ Twentynine Palms base in southern California, an area as large as Luxembourg and one of the largest military training areas in the world.
The Royal Marines, along with allied forces from Canada, the Netherlands and the UAE, destroyed or rendered inoperable nearly every US asset and finished the exercise holding more than 65 per cent of the training area, the report said.
Combatants used paintball-style training ammunition, which fires with reduced pressure and velocity, along with hi-tech simulators for heavier firepower like artillery, and live ammo on expansive ranges.
“This is the first time I’ve been to the States and worked alongside the US and the Dutch,” Marine Sean McGrath from 40 Commando said. “Seeing how they operate and how we can work together has been really rewarding.”
“It’s been fantastic to work in one of the best training environments in the world. Twentynine Palms is absolutely huge and offers pretty much every type of training possible. We can train across terrains, in cities and with so much capable kit, I can see why we come here.”
The Ministry of Defence explained that the battle exercise was testing the deployment of the new Littoral Response Group (LRG) in a guerrilla war-fighting facility on the west coast of America against well-equipped US Marine Corps opponents.
Seeing no opportunity for victory, American combatants asked for the exercise to be “reset” halfway through the five-day exercise, having taken significant casualties.
Troops from 3 Commando Brigade and Taunton-based 40 Commando had spent the last two months in the Mojave Desert preparing for deployments next year.
Their time in the US culminated with the five-day simulated conflict Green Dagger, which is designed to test the US Marine Corps prior to units deploying overseas, the report said.
The mock battlefield covers more than 3,500 square kilometres of mountainous and desert terrain, including urban settings where actors, who are not following a script, play civilians who can choose to help or hinder the military forces.
The Royal Marines trained with counterparts from the US, Canada, UAE and the Netherlands in the weeks before the main exercise.
The British forces achieved their victory by targeting the American headquarters — just like The Dirty Dozen — and their equipment, severely hampering the ability of US combatants to launch counter-attacks.
Artillery units also concentrated on eliminating vehicles and opposing artillery.
A long-range commando assault with fighter jet support eventually defeated the American forces, who had launched a last-minute attack but were repelled.
British forces were trialing the new LRG structure, which will be the new template for commandos — who are to become more flexible and mobile under reforms directed by First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the report said.
LRGs are Royal Navy task groups centred around commando forces and set up to respond to world events.
Following the restructuring of the Marines, NATO’s northern and Baltic flanks will be covered by the UK-based LRG (North).
LRG (South), built around Taunton-based 40 Commando, will be based around Oman’s port of Duqm, operating with a focus on British military activity in the Indo-Pacific.
Each LRG will be capable of working with the carrier strike group to assemble an expeditionary strike force which can operate anywhere in the world.
Dr Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia who has been a consultant for the Foreign Office, wrote in 2018 of how a retired Russian officer told him: “Britain has always had the best light infantry in the world, and the b——ds get places faster than we would like.”
The exercise focused around three urban sprawls which were defended by allied forces, the largest of which consisting of 1,200 buildings purpose built for military testing.
The Marines won decisive battles early on and gained ground from their enemy, but amid a US Marines counter-attack, commandos carried out raids behind enemy lines, badly mauling their USMC counterparts.
“Our success has proved the new commando force concept is more lethal and sophisticated than ever before and I am immensely proud of every member of the LRG and their vital contributions,” said Lieutenant Colonel Andy Dow, Commanding Officer of 40 Commando.
“Operating alongside our partners from the USA, Netherlands, Canada and the UAE gives us a fantastic opportunity to test, integrate and continue to push our capabilities in new and innovative directions.
“Throughout this deployment our focus has been on integrating game-changing capabilities from across the commando force to deliver disproportional effect in the face of a free-thinking peer adversary.”
Sources: The Daily Mail, SkyNews, Tasnim News Agency, TheDefensePost.com