RSO Bucharest and FAST Marines Drill for Every Contingency

May 15, 2015


 
Date: 02/02/2015 Description: FAST Marines prepare for a room clearing to practice skills specific to defending an embassy compound as part of a large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted in February 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo) - State Dept Image

The Diplomatic Security Regional Security
Office in Bucharest, Romania, invites
Fleet Antiterrorism SecurityTeam-Europe
Marines for combat-style training, based
on a deteriorating security scenario.

 


First you notice somebody walking around the embassy taking photos with a cellphone. Soon protesters gather outside the compound and refuse to leave. Then you receive reports of bomb threats, swelling anti-government protests, and imminent terrorist threats.

Your host-nation security informs you they are being recalled to protect government buildings downtown. As soon as they leave, a vehicle-borne explosive device goes off, and armed attackers come over the wall to take embassy personnel hostage at gunpoint.

This is the type of worsening scenario that the Regional Security Office at U.S. Embassy Bucharest, Romania, designed for a multifaceted embassy reinforcement-and-defensive exercise in February 2015.

This week-long exercise culminated in a 24-hour scenario-based exercise involving U.S. Marine Corps Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team-Europe (FASTEUR, part of Commander Task Force SIX EIGHT and Commander Sixth Fleet) based in Rota, Spain; and Romanian security forces, including the National Gendarme (military police), Romanian Police, and the Antiterrorist Brigade of the Romanian Intelligence Service.

Other participants included 30-40 Romanian and Embassy Bucharest staff role players who added heightened realism to the exercise; as well as most of the RSO staff, including Marine Security Guards (MSG), Local Guard Force, Foreign Service national investigators, Assistant Regional Security Officer-Investigator (ARSO-I) Nicole, and ARSOs Bryan and Kyle.

Date: 02/02/2015 Description: In this training exercise, Romanian National Gendarmerie (dressed in black) restrain unruly protestors (wearing reflective vests), played by Romanians and embassy staff. This was part of large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted with the FAST Marines in February 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo) - State Dept Image 
In this training exercise, Romanian National Gendarmerie (dressed in black) restrain unruly protestors (wearing reflective vests), played by Romanians and embassy staff. This was part of large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted with the FAST Marines in February 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 
Date: 02/02/2015 Description: In this training exercise, a Romanian National Gendarmerie officer (wearing helmet) restrains a protestor (wearing reflective vest), while other protestors hurl items at the officers. This was part of large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted with the FAST Marines in February 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo) - State Dept Image
In this training exercise, a Romanian National Gendarmerie officer (wearing helmet) restrains a protestor (wearing reflective vest), while other protestors hurl items at the officers. This was part of large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted with the FAST Marines in February 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo)

“The whole point of this integrated security response exercise was to test our standard operating procedures for engagement and tactics,” says Embassy Bucharest Regional Security Officer Bryce. “We did that by designing realistic scenarios, based on a quickly deteriorating security crisis that provided challenging decision points. It helped us tremendously in identifying areas for better coordination and improvements for all involved.”

“The whole point of this integrated security response exercise was to test our standard operating procedures for engagement and tactics,” says Embassy Bucharest Regional Security Officer Bryce.
 

Bryce adds, “I cannot overstate how important this was to do with the FAST Marines – for them to understand embassy physical security features, organic security assets, host-nation security forces capabilities, rules of engagement, communications – and the list goes on. At the conclusion of the exercise, we were able to codify accurate SOPs especially as they govern joint communications and coordination that can be replicated at other posts.”

FASTEUR Marines conduct anti-terrorism and security operations throughout Europe and Africa under Commander, Sixth Fleet, including the defense and reinforcement of U.S. Embassies and other national assets. “This was the first opportunity for us to train at an actual embassy,” says Company Commander Major Curtis, who was a U.S. Marine Security Guard back in the late 1990s.

“What made this exercise particularly valuable was that Bucharest is a new building with the latest construction and security standards, representative of what we will see more of in our region,” Curtis says.

“You can do site surveys and write training plans all day. But you’ll never get the same value out of it as actually going to an embassy, putting up a guard post and obstacles, and training like we fight. That’s the only way to see what works, what breaks, so we can eliminate redundancies and close gaps in capabilities. A hundred hours in class equals one hour of training in a stressful environment with good feedback. That’s why we’re pushing for more training like this for FAST.”

Curtis adds, “We flew to Bucharest with mission-essential equipment for a section of 26 Marines, including infantrymen, communicators, Navy medical corpsmen, and other specialists. We did individual skills training with Romanian counterparts one day. The next we did collective training – room clearing, close-quarters combat, and sharing techniques in a sequence of surprise scenarios. We learned a great deal about command and control, communications, embassy defense tactics, hardened-structure scenarios, real-time reaction to bomb threats, and best practices, and adjusted our SOPs accordingly.”

U.S. Embassy Bucharest MSG Detachment Commander Keith says, “The MSGs routinely do drills here in Bucharest. But during this exercise, we did 20 drills in 48 hours. That made for lots of added experience and opportunities to improve our procedures.” The same applied to the Local Guard Force.

Date: 02/02/2015 Description: FAST Marines prepare for a room clearing to practice skills specific to defending an embassy compound as part of a large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted in February 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo) - State Dept Image
FAST Marines prepare to practice skills specific to defending an embassy compound as part of a large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted in February 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Date: 02/02/2015 Description: FAST Marines administer first aid to embassy personnel who was injured during a shooting. This was part of large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted with the FAST Marines in February 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo) - State Dept Image
FAST Marines administer first aid to an embassy employee with a simulated injury during
a shooting. This was part of large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted with the FAST Marines
in February 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Date: 02/02/2015 Description: A FAST Marine applies pressure to a chest wound incurred by an embassy employee. This was part of large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted with the FAST Marines in February 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo) © White House Image 
A FAST Marine applies pressure to a simulated chest wound incurred by an embassy employee. This was part of a large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted with the FAST Marines in February 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo)

Curtis says, “This exercise was the first embassy engagement exercise conducted by FASTEUR. Thanks to the efforts of DS Liaison Officer to the U.S. European Command Tim, we were able to conduct integrated training in a realistic environment.”

After speaking with FASTEUR Executive Officer Captain Adam in August 2014, Tim presented the idea to Bryce. Bryce, who is a former U.S. Marine, immediately said yes, and the team began pre-deployment site surveys and putting together a training schedule. After three months of planning, the exercise went off without a hitch.

Date: 02/02/2015 Description: Bucharest RSO conducts weapons training with Romanian military police, FAST Marines, and other participants of this large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted in February 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo) - State Dept Image
Bucharest RSO conducts weapons training with Romanian military police, FAST Marines, and other participants of this large-scale exercise that RSO Bucharest hosted in February 2015. (U.S. Department
of State photo)

Of the many lessons learned, the most significant was communications and coordination, specifically interoperability between embassy security elements, FAST Marines, and Romanian security forces.

As Bryce explains, “Getting everybody on the same sheet of music was a challenge due to incompatible communications equipment and procedures, and the lack of a unified schematic map utilized to coordinate reporting and responses in and around the embassy compound. These issues were addressed by issuing embassy radios, procedural directions, and a coded map reference to the command elements of FAST and Romanian security services.”

To replicate the successful outcomes of this exercise, the plan is to use this template at as many embassies as possible. The intent is to rotate these embassy engagement exercises several times a year at posts that are willing to support them.