A tough-talking, muscular Los Angeles police sergeant steadily rattled off tips to a young Marine officer riding shotgun as they raced in a patrol car to a drug bust: Be aware of your surroundings. Watch people’s body language. Build rapport.

First Lt. Andrew Abbott, 23, took it all in as he peered out at the graffiti-covered buildings, knowing that the lessons he learned recently in one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods could help him soon in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“People are the center of gravity and if you do everything you can to protect them, then they’ll protect you,” he said. “That’s something true here and pretty much everywhere.”

Abbott was among 70 Marines from Camp Pendleton, Calif., participating in a training exercise that aims to adapt the investigative techniques the LAPD has used for decades against violent street gangs to take on the Taliban more as a powerful drug-trafficking mob than an insurgency.

Marines hope that learning to work like a cop on a beat will help them better track the Taliban, build relationships with Afghans leery of foreign troops and make them better teachers as they try to professionalize an Afghan police force beset by corruption.

Increasingly, the Corps has put greater emphasis on equipping Marines — squad leaders and platoon sergeants in particular — with such inner city police skills. Soon, standardized training will be taught at both Schools of Infantry, with a focus on evidence collection, spotting clues and the basics of neighborhood networking. Former big-city cops also are hired by the Corps to embed with Marine units in theater.

And while the training at SOI will be new, the partnership with LAPD dates to 2003, when then-Maj. Gen. James Mattis approached the police department for guidance on improving his troops’ urban combat skills. At the time, he viewed the insurgency in Iraq as “somewhat of a countergang fight,” retired LAPD detective Ralph Morten, who devised the Corps’ police training program, told Marine Corps Times late last year.

“He was right on the money with that,” he said. “And it’s even more so with the Taliban, with their drug dealing and things.”

Source: The Associated Press via Military Times.

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