ROBERTSON BARRACKS, DARWIN, Australia --
Marines and Sailors of Company F., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit successfully completed bilateral exercise Raider Dawn with a squad competition as the culminating event of the week-long training with the Australian Defence Forces.
The challenging squad competition was an opportunity for the Marines to apply what they had been practicing, as well as develop teamwork and leadership.
“It was start to finish as a team,” said Cpl. Terren Burgess, from Sacramento, Calif., a mortarman with Co. F, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “We started with the disassembly and assembly of our weapons, then we fired on the battlesight zero course to see who could get the tightest grouping. Next we grabbed full water jugs and sprinted to a machinegun shooting course. Finally we picked up a casualty and ran to the finish line. This competition brought us together, working as a team, it was good experience and a good culminating event.”
The exercise involved U.S. Marines of the 31st MEU partnering with Australian soldiers of the 1st Brigade to share knowledge of their weapons systems, tactics and other military skills.
“The Marines have come out to train and to use the first brigade’s facilities,” said Australian Army Lieutenant Colonel Scott Watkins, Chief of Staff, 1st Brigade. “We train regularly with the Marines. The benefits are that we train as allies together, and because we train together, we can operate together more smoothly. We want to see this happen again.”
For the past week Company F has been doing infantry skills training and patrolling exercises, said Capt. John Dalby, company commander, F. Co, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU.
“The ranges and facilities here have been top notch, allowing us to improve our skills,” Dalby said. “And one of the biggest benefits has been the interaction with the Australian soldiers, learning each other’s weapons, vehicles and culture – that is something that goes a long way.”
As the Marines trained with Australian soldiers, relationships were built.
“The interaction with the Australian soldiers has been remarkable,” said 1st Sgt. Christopher Griffin, Co. F first sergeant, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “There has been some friendly competition as the Australian soldiers did our physical training and martial arts program with us. It has been a great week and a great friendship.”
The squad completion involved weapons familiarity, moving to different locations, firing on two different ranges, and evacuating a casualty.
“We work great together, and we are always exercising with our full gear on and carrying our weapons, so we did good,” said Cpl. Jarrod Larosa, from Phoenix, Ariz., squad leader with Co. F, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “This brought our section together, and helps to develop our young leaders.”
Larosa, whose squad won the final competition, said that the event helps the company get ready for possible upcoming combat deployments.
“This week-long exercise went great, we got to shoot a lot of rounds, do night training, and lot of good field training,” said Larosa. “This helps our marksmanship, allows us to get comfortable with our weapons systems, it is a big part of being ready to go to combat.”
“This week overall, we got the opportunity to exercise each skill we have as a company,” said Staff Sgt. Juan Urdiales, from Scotts’ Bluff, Neb., a platoon sergeant with Co. F, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “This builds the individual confidence of the Marines, that each of them will do their part successfully. This helps bring us together and get in the proper mindset, see what deficiencies we can work on and helps us get better at accomplishing our mission.”
The 31st MEU provides a forward-deployed, flexible sea-based force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response and limited contingency operations in the Asia-Pacific area.
The 31st MEU is the only continually forward-deployed MEU, and remains the United States force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.