Good Karmah: Role-Playing for the USMC
Twentynine Palms, CA has hosted one of the Marine Corps’ most unique assets: battlefield foreign language specialist role players. Iraqis who play D&D? No, Iraqis who can help the Corps simulate life and cultural norms in Iraq. In recent days, the Marines have handed out over $400 million in contracts to keep that capability running – and extend it to Camp Lejeune. Characteristically, Alaskan firms have won both awards, just as they have taken a significant share of Special Operations Command’s foreign language PsyOps support contracts.
These role player awards seems like large but inconsequential outlays, a sort of upside-down Disneyworld for Marines. In fact, they are more critical to current military effectiveness on the front lines than just about any piece of equipment DID covers. An example of how critical this work is can be found in journalist Michael Totten’s reports from the front lines. “Builders of Nations” noted the contrast between prior military training, and the civil administration work that characterizes current deployments to Fallujah. Totten writes:
“[Lieutenant Nathan Bibler, in Fallujah] has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. “In a lot of ways it helps me analyze and interpret,” he said. What helps more than anything, though, is a training program Marine officers go through in 29 Palms, California, before they’re deployed. “We were living in a town they built out in the desert with Iraqis.”
“Really,” I said. “Iraqi-Americans?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I don’t know if they were all U.S. citizens, but Iraqis who were already in the U.S. We were living in this town that they built. We lived in the town with the Iraqi Police right next door. Actually they lived with us part of the time.”
Enlisted men don’t go through role playing training in 29 Palms, but every officer who mentioned it to me said those exercises were eerily effective, that actors from Iraq hired to play Iraqis in Iraq during counter-terrorist warfare turned out to be surprisingly like real Iraqis in a real counter-terrorist war.”
Read his full report. For additional background flavor and a better sense of the challenges involved, see also his interview with USMC Captain Quintin Jones, commanding officer at Outpost Delta in the city of Karmah, Iraq.
April 28/08: ILSC Holdings, LC division Defense Training Services in Anchorage, AK received a $91.8 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract “to provide civilians on the battlefield foreign language specialist role players to support United States Marine Corps pre-deployment training at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.”
The preponderance of the work will be performed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., and work is expected to be complete in March 2013. This effort was awarded as a sole source 8(a) set aside for woman or minority owned businesses. The Marine Corps System Command, Orlando, FL issued the contract (M67854-08-D-8028).
April 23/08: Tatitlek Support Services, Inc. in Anchorage, Alaska received a $319.2 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to provide civilians on the battlefield foreign language specialist role players to support United States Marine Corps pre-deployment training at Twentynine Palms, CA. The preponderance of the work will be performed at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms, CA, and work is expected to be complete in March 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps System Command in Orlando, FL issued the contract (M67854-08-D-8029).