OKINAWA, Japan --
They appear as specks on the horizon, slowly growing in size as they approach. Each weighs more than 29 tons and carries a payload of approximately 20 Marines, delivering a formidable force ready to tackle any objective waiting on shore.
Approximately 219 Marines and Sailors with Company B, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a mechanized raid using amphibious assault vehicles here, Jan. 11. The raid was part of Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise, a multi-week training event conducted prior to every MEU deployment.
Once ashore, the MEU’s “Mech Company” moved a group of vehicles into blocking positions, while others sped towards predetermined points to unload the Marines and Sailors who continued the mission on foot.
Their objective; to perform a “soft knock” on a village believed to have hostile forces amongst innocent civilians.
“A soft knock is when we don’t go in with the intent to kill the enemy, we go in to make our presence known,” said Sgt. Mark A. Aleman, a squad leader with Company B, BLT 1/4, 31st MEU.
Marines from Weapons Company, BLT 1/4, 31st MEU, moved into position around the village to provide mortar support as needed. Simultaneously, machine gunners moved to the far side of the objective to provide suppressing fire and an assault force moved to their staging points to await their signal to enter the village.
Upon receiving the signal, the synchronized force moved into the objective. The Marines had barely made it inside the perimeter of the objective before their right flank took fire from hostile role players.
The experienced Marines of Company B reacted by sending one element in assault to neutralize the enemy as the others provided suppressing fire. The right flank was quickly secured; but the Marines took more fire from a different direction. With a similar assault, the second threat was neutralized in minutes.
Within 30 minutes of dismounting the AAV’s the Marines had successfully secured their objective.
“The Marines performed well and were very enthusiastic about being able to get in their vehicles and conduct additional training,” said Capt. Ted W. Schroeder, company commander of B. Co., BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “They were happy to be doing their jobs and preparing for war.”
The Marines ran into many challenges during the operation, both within the vehicles and moving towards the objective.
“We had a couple different vehicles that went down during the exercise,” said Cpl. Calvin P. Hurtado, a crew chief with Company B, BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “One of the times was especially challenging because it was dark out, so it was hard to hook up to it and tow it back.”
The Marines on the ground had a unique challenge to overcome as well, because of the island’s jungle terrain.
“The Marines know they have to be quiet when moving at night,” said Aleman. “But in the jungle, you have to be more careful, because just the crunching leaves or the snap of a twig could potentially give away your position.”
The ability to operate in a jungle environment has become increasingly important due to the country shifting its focus towards security operations in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We are absolutely ebullient about working with the 31st MEU during this next deployment and being able to do more training like this,” said Schroeder.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.