USS ESSEX --
The early morning silence was broken as CH-46E Sea Knight and AH-1W Super Cobra Attack helicopters appeared over the horizon and raced toward a simulated enemy vessel during a mock visit, board, search and seizure aboard USNS Alan Shepard, Sept. 18.
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit's Force Reconnaissance Platoon and Maritime Raid Force, flown by Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262, circled around the vessel as Super Cobras provided security.
Then, two CH-46E helicopters hovered over the ship just long enough for Marines to fast rope onto the deck.
“The Cobras distract the target by circling and making noise, and allow the Marines to slide down the rope and onto the flight deck,” said Capt. Peter Hersey, Force Reconnaissance Platoon Commander.
Once on board, the Marines secured key spaces including the bridge and engine room, in order to stop the ship's progress.
Throughout the evolution, the Force Recon Marines rose to the challenge, seizing the key control areas and securing the vessel. Suspects were detained and searched, and simulated casualties were evacuated to rally points.
VBSS serves as a routine part of the MEU's deployment training and is used to educate Marines on how to board, search and secure enemy controlled vessels.
Whether interdicting a vessel transporting drugs and weapons, or a terrorist controlled ship, the 31st MEU possesses the ability to combine air and land assets in an organized strike against any threat that arises.
“No matter what circumstances we encounter, the 31st MEU must be prepared to complete the mission at hand,” Hersey said. “VBSS training has undoubtedly expanded our capability for mission accomplishment,” he added.
The 31st MEU is currently conducting CERTEX as a part of its deployment in the Asia-Pacific Theater and is preparing for exercises and training alongside foreign military forces from Japan, the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Korea.