TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms was placed on a state of high alert last night, after forces of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria overran a mock Iraqi training village located in the center of the base.
According to Marine officials, the town of Wadi al-Sahara — known to the locals as Ranges 200 and 215 — was stormed in the middle of the night by ISIS fighters. Hoisting the black and white ISIS flag over the town, ISIS Commander Ali Baba proclaimed the Islamic Emirate of Camp Wilson and declared shariah law across the base.
Baba then declared an immediate prohibition on the purchase and consumption of alcohol, except on designated Warrior Nights. In a show of sensitivity to local culture, he then submitted paperwork to the Tactical Training Exercise Control Group to reserve Wadi al-Sahara for the next hundred years and ordered his fighters to conduct proper range maintenance.
A small artificial town sandwiched between base housing and several live-fire ranges, Wadi al-Sahara's population typically consists of 200 Arab-American role players and a platoon of off-duty Marines. They apparently thought the attack was part of a routine exercise, but were shocked after ISIS had the town's nominal sheikh, a restaurant owner from Dearborn, Michigan, shot in front of the mosque. In an even worse atrocity, the terrorists then refused to let the role players leave for their designated chow break or let the Marines go on authorized liberty.
Shortly after dawn, several ISIS fighters were also spotted at the Twentynine Palms Exchange attempting to buy cigarettes and Monster energy drinks, although they were immediately turned away for not having a proper shave. ISIS responded with a demand that base commander Maj. Gen. Lewis Craparotta publicly swear fealty to ISIS and place the 7th Marine Regiment under ISIS control.
Craparotta refused and vowed to launch an immediate counterattack as soon as he obtained permission from Range Control to use live ammunition on a non-live fire range, certified that everyone had a full CamelBak, and ensured the attack would not violate allotted noise levels for the base.
ISIS has also apparently begun fortifying the town, deploying dozens of simulated IEDs along likely avenues of approach and repeatedly flying a captured Raven UAV to deter any close air support.
This surprise attack is an embarrassment for the Marines, who have been waging a seemingly-endless battle for decades to pacify the restive town. Almost every battalion in the Marine Corps has attempted to improve the security of Wadi al-Sahara at some point, most doing multiple tours there, only to see the security quickly evaporate as soon as the next battalion arrives.
The Marines have admitted this is the worst breach of security since the Bridgeport Mountain Warfare Training Center was overrun by a company of Taliban fighters in July 2008.
Duffel Blog writer Lee Ho Fuk contributed to this article.