SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Queensland, Australia -- The Marines of India Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, took the lead during the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s 17.2 Certification Exercise, Aug. 16-18, 2017, when they splashed from the well deck of the USS Ashland (LSD 48) in Assault Amphibious Vehicles during a notional raid, paving the way for Combat Logistics Battalion 31 and Navy landing craft to come ashore.
CERTEX, an evaluation testing the partnership and assets of the 31st MEU and Amphibious Squadron 11, was conducted in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area of Queensland, Australia.
BLT, 3/5, is the Ground Combat Element of the 31st MEU. India Company, the mechanized raid company of the battalion, specializes in amphibious landings in Assault Amphibious Vehicles.
During CERTEX, India Company secured the beach and provided security for CLB-31, the Logistics Combat Element of the 31st MEU, allowing CLB-31 to successfully complete a humanitarian assistance-disaster relief mission as part of the exercise.
First Lt. James G. Heisler, the executive officer of India Company, said he sees the company as the tip of the spear for the 31st MEU.
“We’re usually the forward element,” said Heisler. “We’re the most self-sustainable and quickest to react because of our tracked vehicles. We’re usually tasked with securing the beach landing site so that anyone else can come ashore safely, like the Navy’s landing craft.”
India Company’s infiltration and seizure of the beach would have been impossible without the help of the naval crew aboard the Ashland. The Sailors prepared the well deck on the amphibious dock landing ship for the launch and reloading of AAVs in a timely manner. Filling the space with the right amount of water for the tracked vehicles to safely descend into the ocean takes coordination and communication between Sailors and the AAV operators.
Sgt. Alfred C. Johnson, a squad leader with India Company, says the Navy-Marine Corps partnership aboard the ship has allowed everyone to work together flawlessly during CERTEX.
“[Marines and Sailors] have to trust in each other,” said Johnson. “For example – if the AAV I’m in breaks down, I know I can rely on the Ashland’s crew to help recover it if needed. The partnership we have is critical to the mission.”
The camaraderie among the Marines of India Company also plays a part in the outcome of the mission. Riding in a cramped space in the back of an AAV drives the Marines to form a brotherhood, said Johnson, which then translates to better communication and trust during the action out in the field. Because of the bonds built in the unit, India Company is able to complete tasks without detailed instructions, said Heisler.
“From every level – squad to platoon to company level – we have independent operators who have great communication up and down the chain of command,” said Heisler. “We’re able to take a problem and fix it, operating under commander’s intent, while being flexible and adapting to the situation by collaborating with each other.”
The relationship the Marines build within the company and the partnership they have maintained with the Sailors aboard the Ashland allows India Company to support the 31st MEU in a variety of amphibious operations including ship to shore troop movement and HA/DR. The 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11 together form the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, a forward deployed, quick response Navy-Marine Corps team able to accomplish a number of amphibious operations across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.