USS ESSEX, At sea --
As the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters crested the horizon and approached the USS Germantown (LSD 42), they began lowering ropes to deliver their payload of approximately 35 Marines with the Maritime Raid Force, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Marines of the MRF, consisting of Force Reconnaissance Platoon and elements of the Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, conducted a mock vessel board, search and seizure in preparation for the MEU’s upcoming certification exercise.
As the Marines of FRP hit the deck they immediately moved forward, quickly subduing a small group of enemy combatants, and transitioning into providing security for the next wave of Marines.
“We had three helicopters coming in,” said Cpl. Garrett Greer, assistant team leader, force reconnaissance platoon, MRF, 31st MEU. “We fast-roped in and pushed towards the bridge while team two and three spread out to give us security.”
As the security element exited the final helicopter and hit the deck, they quickly took over the task of providing security and guarding the captured enemy combatants. Once the security element was in position, FRP split into two teams and pushed forward to secure the upper and lower decks of the ship.
“It went well,” said Greer. “There really was not much we could have done differently to make it any better.”
According to Greer, it took the MRF approximately 30 minutes to secure all of their objectives. The goal of a VBSS operation is to secure a hijacked or enemy vessel while minimizing damage to the ship or crew.
“VBSS has been used in the past to combat piracy,” said Capt. Marcelo Castro, the MRF company commander, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “VBSS is one of the many capabilities that keep the MEU ready to respond to any contingency in the Asia-Pacific region.”
The Marines of the MRF are currently preparing to participate in the MEU’s upcoming certification exercise, where their performance will be evaluated.
“We are looking forward to doing it again, and doing it right,” said Greer.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.