IE SHIMA ISLAND, OKINAWA, Japan --
The government of Ryukyu requested assistance after a radical, anti-government group took control of their main airfield, and the Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit were the first to respond.
Elements of Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced) conducted a mock airfield seizure Sept. 9, 2011, as part of a scenario designed to prepare the Marines for an upcoming deployment.
More than 60 Marines from Company E, BLT 2/7, were transported by CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters to Ie Shima Island, where they engaged more than a dozen live role-players to capture the airfield.
The scenario was designed to integrate the Air Combat Element and Battalion Landing Team of the 31st MEU in a situation the Marines may face as part of an expeditionary force.
“These raids build relationships with the guys you plan and execute with,” said Capt. Jarrod Larson, assistant aviation officer for the 31st MEU. “If we ever have to do it for real, these exercises make us better prepared to fill holes and overcome speed bumps in the future.”
With Company E dedicated as the “Helo Company” for the 31st MEU, the integrated training with their airborne counterparts is inherently valuable, and made even more valuable by the numerous efforts to make the training as realistic as possible.
To simulate a real-world situation, unit commanders were given little time for planning, helicopters were used for the insertion, blank ammunition was issued and live role-players defended the target.
“We try to mimic the entire process of a real tactical insertion,” said Larson.
The use of Marines as the simulated enemy was the most significant factor in the realism the training provided, according to Pfc. Skyler Day, a rifleman for Company E.
“Targets are just targets, they’re static,” said Day. “Humans are dynamic thinkers, so when your adversary is human, the game changes.”
Despite all of the challenges the scenario presented, the Marines of the 31st MEU successfully overcame the enemy force and secured the airfield in less than 30 minutes.
The 31st MEU serves as the United States’ expeditionary force in readiness for the Asia-Pacific region.