- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 3, 2001

CAMP GEIGER, N.C. (AP) Vigilance with attitude. That's the catch-phrase of the Marine Corps' new anti-terrorism brigade.

In the words of Cpl. Willie Owens, 22, of Selma, Ala.: "Who doesn't have a chip on their shoulder after September 11? Anything that's in our way, we're going to stop."

Cpl. Owens was one of about 60 Marines who ran through a refresher course Thursday on chemical warfare at Camp Geiger, a training base adjacent to Camp Lejeune.

The men were from a 1,000-member battalion that is part of the 4,800-member 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, a dormant anti-terrorism unit reactivated this week in response to the September 11 attacks.

Instead of engaging in counterterrorism operations, such as hunting down terrorists as do special-operations units in other services, the brigade has a defensive role.

Its members will be ready to fight in urban areas if asked by state or federal authorities, and will protect places such as ports or embassies. Besides the standard M-16 rifle, the troops can use shotguns firing nonlethal rubber pellets for crowd control.

"Shotguns in close quarters are a lot more useful than rifles," said Brig. Gen. Douglas O'Dell, the brigade commander. "Just the presence of a shotgun presents a different threat in the eye of the beholder."

Gen. O'Dell said he expects that a third of the brigade's missions will be in the United States and the rest overseas.

The brigade is designed to deploy an assessment team as small as six Marines to a trouble spot within six hours. A platoon or company can leave in 12 hours and the entire brigade could be mobilized within 72 hours.

"These Marines are bad dudes," Gen. O'Dell said. "They're being trained to be badder.

"We're not in the business of killing 14-year-old, rock-throwing boys. We're in the business of killing these evil men who are dressed up in the clothing of terrorism."

The trainees Thursday donned charcoal-lined suits, gas masks and rubber gloves, covered their boots with rubber booties, and entered a chamber that was filled with tear gas.

They loosened their masks until the stinging fumes had every man coughing. Then, following shouted orders, they bolted from the small building into the clear autumn air.

After a short chance to catch their breath and wash off their faces, the men ran a muddy obstacle course through the pine woods as trainers popped yellow and green smoke grenades. Small explosions simulated mortar fire and helicopters roared overhead.

The troops, carrying rubber training rifles, ran to a field where they practiced taking off their protective gear without spreading the irritating gas back onto themselves, and decontaminating it with powdered bleach.

The exercise was meant to remind the Marines, some of whom served in Kosovo, "what it's going to be like if they go into a situation where there is a chemical or biological agent," said Warrant Officer Steven Dancer, one of the trainers.

The Marine Corps announced in September that it would re-establish the brigade. Most of the brigade consists of existing units; the anti-terrorist designation is primarily an organizational change.

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