By Julie Stahl

NEGEV DESERT, Israel — In recent years, the U.S. Marines have seen a lot of action across the Middle East. But recently, they had a unique experience in the land of their best ally.

The U.S. Marines were deep in the Israeli Negev Desert recently, but they didn’t come here to fight an enemy. They came to drill at the largest urban warfare training center in the world.

“Anybody who pops up in that sector of fire, I take them down,” Platoon Commander Mike Jevons told his troops.

“Keep the momentum going and keep the bad guys on their heels. Everybody understand that?” he asked his troops, who responded with a resounding “yes sir.”

Israel Defense Forces Captain Nadav Gottfried said the warfare training center provides just what combat soldiers need to prepare for the real thing.

“It stimulates an entire city — something that if you train as good as these guys train — gives you a real sense of danger, what you will encounter in the actual battlefield,” Gottfried said.

Some 50 marines trained in Basic CQB — close quarter battle — for two weeks.

“They’ve been trained to re-capture buildings and to clear out terrorist threats inside of a building, but they’ve never been trained on how to you know clear a building, and move to another one clear it and move to another one,” Jevons said.

Built with Palestinian Arab cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in mind, Baladia is a mock Arab village complete with roads, homes, mosques and other public buildings.

Jevons says it’s preparing his soldiers for the future.

“What I like about this facility is, you know, it really prepares these guys for what they are going to encounter some day,” Jevons told CBN News.

Divided into opposing forces, the Marines moved through alleys and buildings in the urban setting, shooting guns equipped with paint ball rounds and occupying the high ground of Baladia.

During exercises this time, the marines trained alone, but a few months ago they trained together with the IDF forces. Jevon says it’s good working with Israeli soldiers.

“I feel like I connect well with the IDF because they’re warriors, you know, just like the Marines are,” Jevon said. “We share a common bond,” he said.

Paramedic Ray Price kept the Marines in good shape during the two-week exercise.

“Looking over the medical capabilities the Israelis have, compared to some of the things we’re doing in the U.S., it’s intense,” Price told CBN News

And there were perks they hadn’t counted on.

“I can tell you coming here has helped me improve my faith. You know being able to go to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and to see where the base of the cross was, you know, to see where Jesus body was laid out after he was taken off the cross and to see where he was resurrected,” Jevons told CBN News.

So was it a success?

“Yea, we won,” one commander said. “We always win.”

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