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A U.S. Marine with the Force Reconnaissance Platoon assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit prepares to lead his team out of a secured room during a long distance raid during their Certification Exercise on Camp Fuji, Japan, March 11. CERTEX is performed to certify the 31st MEU's readiness in all of its capabilities. The 31st MEU serves as the U.S. force::r::::n::in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.::r::::n::

Photo by Lance Cpl. Michael Oxton

31st MEU conducts 1,100 mile raid

11 Mar 2012 | Sgt. Paul Robbins Jr.

With a precision raid executed from more than 1,000 miles away, the Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary unit demonstrated their capability to be anywhere the mission requires.

Starting from the deck of the USS Essex, currently at sea in the Pacific Ocean, members of the 31st MEU's Maritime Raid Force conducted a long distance raid on a building in Camp Fuji, March 11, as part of their certification exercise.

The mission involved conducting a long distance movement, assaulting a building holding members of a mock terrorist organization, and finding a high value target inside.

The long distance and precision of the strike required the Amphibious Reconnaissance Marines and Force Reconnaissance Marines to test capabilities beyond the typical breach and clear.

"This raid reinforces all of the capabilities of the Reconnaissance community as far as reporting to higher, using ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) assets, incorporating air assets and long distance communication," said Capt. George Goddard, assistant officer in charge of Special Missions Branch, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and native of Kissimmee, Fla.

Amphibious Reconnaissance Marines used the cover of darkness to secure a hide near the target site, feeding the raid force hours of valuable intelligence on enemy movements prior to actions on the objective.

The intelligence enabled development of the raid plan, initiated by Force Reconnaissance Marines and infantrymen from the MEU's Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines.

Three squads of infantrymen from the BLT's trailer platoon set up a cordon around the target building. Heavy machine guns covered the roads for incoming vehicles, while the individual infantrymen stood ready to use precision fire in support of their Force Reconnaissance counterparts.

"We were providing security through blocking positions for (Force Recon) to go in and hit the objective," said Cpl. Joshua Smulski, a squad leader for trailer platoon, BLT 1/4, and a native of Elmhurst, Ill. "We make sure no one goes in or comes out."

With security in place, Force Reconnaissance Marines used explosives to breach an entrance and stormed the three story structure. Teams swept through rooms, eliminating mock enemies with paint rounds as they methodically searched for their target.

A clean sweep of the building and the successful capture of their target took less than 30 minutes, with the raid force moving quickly to meet a tight timeline.

With the mission complete, all three elements of the raid force rendezvoused at a nearby field for extraction. Four CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters were flown from the USS Essex at sea over 1,000 miles distant to extract the members of the mission.

To accomplish this, the helicopters refueled in mid-flight with C-130J tanker aircraft, adjusted for weather, and used islands as checkpoints along the route.

"This mission clearly illustrates the capability of the 31st MEU to conduct operations on short notice, over great distances from the amphibious ready group ships," said Lt. Col. Damien Marsh, commanding officer of the MEU's Air Combat Element and graduate of The Citadel. "We were able to land precisely in the correct landing zone within seconds of L-Hour after flying over seven hours."

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit