COMBAT TOWN, OKINAWA, Japan --
“We’re the closest thing to explosive ordnance disposal on scene right now, so we’re going to have to deal with this!”
After ordering the rest of his squad to secure the perimeter and ensure no other Marines would be within the blast area, the assaultman carefully approached the pile of rocks which contained a red cord trailing into a drainage grate. After cautiously placing explosive charges on the pile, the Marine withdrew behind a near building, pulling out his radio.
“Simulated detonation in five, four, three...”
This assaultman was one of the dozens of Marines in Company B., Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, who conducted a mechanized raid exercise at the urban training facility here, Jan. 28. Company B., known as “Mech Company,” utilized the transportation and firepower capabilities provided by Amphibious Assault Vehicles in the recapturing an enemy controlled town.
“The scenario is that insurgents have overtaken and set up defenses inside town,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Davis, assistant intelligence officer with BLT 1/4. “The Marines are to conduct tactical site exploitation, locate the (high-value intelligence) and weapons caches and relay any information back to the command.”
During previous simulated operations of Marine Expeditionary Training Exercise, which is the pre-deployment training block BLT 1/4 completed, similar mechanized raids were conducted against an untrained insurgent force.
However, now that the BLT is underway aboard the USS Tortuga (LSD-46), the training has been heightened as part of Amphibious Integration Training in preparation for Exercise Cobra Gold 2012. The Marines now face an enemy that has been properly trained and equipped in an attempt to repel Mech Co.
“Our objective is to quickly insert and withdraw our Marines, pushing the insurgents out and allowing the civilians to repopulate their town,” said Cpl. Jerry Willis III, a rifleman with Co. B., BLT 1/4, 31st MEU.
Throughout the day, the Marines assaulted and quelled the enemy resistance within the overtaken area, neutralizing multiple improvised explosive devices, machine gun nests and rocket-propelled grenades. As the sun waned, the town was retaken with minimal losses to the BLT. Although the operation was a real-time simulation, the Marines treated it like a bona-fide combat operation to further hone their skills and address any shortcomings in procedure.
“Another element to this exercise is our coordination with the Navy, as we are launching our AAV’s from the ship,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Norton, commanding officer of BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “We strive toward flawless amphibious integration, and these rehearsals better prepare us for the future.”
Maneuvering back to the AAV’s from which they came, the Mech Co. Marines have not just put a check in the box. They have once again proven themselves in their trade and further sharpened their skills in amphibious landings and mechanized raids.
“I feel we’ve performed very well today,” said Willis. “There is always room for improvement when doing these kinds of things, and that’s why, no matter how repetitive it may seem, we keep doing these exercises."
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the Nations force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.