BUTLERVILLE — Muscatatuck Urban Training Center served as a U.S. Embassy for nearly a week in order for Marines to perform reinforcement exercises.

More than 200 Marines from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, trained at the Indiana National Guard site Nov. 3 to 7.

During the exercises, called “Bold Alligator,” the Marine Corps worked with Navy, coalition, NATO, Allied and partner nations to create a realistic experience that involved nearly 20 naval vessels and operations in Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and all along the East Coast.

At Muscatatuck, the mock U.S. Embassy was used to represent a security situation. The 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, under the command of Lt. Col. Jeff Stevenson, conducted noncombatant evacuation operations during the exercise.

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“That was our primary objective,” Stevenson said. “The second objective was to conduct an embassy

reinforcement.”

Marines flew in via MV-22s (Osprey aircraft) from Camp Lejeune, traveling three hours to insert a platoon-size force, move to the embassy and reinforce it, Stevenson added.

The embassy and the facilities at Muscatatuck provided the training space that was needed for the Marines, while the Indiana Army National Guard 76th IBCT Shadow Platoon supplemented the exercise and added another level of complexity and opportunity for joint training.

“The uniqueness of the pre-established buildings that were made for something other than training, coupled with the fact that the Marines had not been here before, added realism to the training we could not have gotten at Camp Lejeune,” Stevenson said.

“When we moved into the urban portion of the pre-deployment training process, this facility provided training opportunities we couldn’t get anywhere else,” Stevenson added.

Hoosier homecoming

For two Marines, the exercise was a chance for them to come back home.

Lance Cpl. Peyton Gillenwater graduated from New Albany High School in 2013, joining the Marine Corps to become an infantryman. The last thing he expected was to return to Indiana for a large training exercise, Gillenwater said.

“When I first went in, I was thinking most of their training exercises were out in California or in Texas or way out in the middle of nowhere,” he said with a laugh. “I had absolutely no idea that I was going to come back to Indiana.”

“I looked at the map and thought, ‘Where in the world would we go in Indiana?’” Gillenwater added. “All that’s up here is Army and National Guard. Maybe a few Marines that are posted on an area, but I had never heard of any kind of training area up there for us, so coming here was definitely a surprise.”

He described the training at Atterbury as realistic.

“Going in there, I didn’t really expect it to be that realistic, but it was. You had your role players doing their part making it as real as they could, and we did our part over-watching the building,” he said.

Sgt. George Grecu dreamed of becoming a Marine from the time he was a child growing up in Kokomo. A 2006 Taylor High School graduate, he joined the Corps three years ago, not believing that he would be back with the Marines for an exercise.

“No, I never thought that would happen,” Grecu said. “At first I didn’t believe it. I was like, ‘There’s no way!’ because I didn’t know of anywhere we’d be able to train.”

Grecu said he’d never heard of Muscatatuck.

“I’d heard of Atterbury, but I didn’t know something like this existed,” he said.

“We train on the same buildings made out off shipping containers at Lejeune,” Grecu said. “We know the layouts since we train in them over and over. It was nice to come to a place we didn’t know the layout of and have to work that way.”

Grecu was happy to get back to Indiana for another reason than just the training — it made him a bit homesick.

“I liked coming back, especially this time of year. I’m not used to the hot weather, so I definitely miss it here,” he said.