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Photo Information

Marines with Force Reconnaissance Platoon and Maritime Raid Force, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fast rope from a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced), and secure the flight deck of the USNS Matthew C. Perry off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, March 13. FRP and MRF conducted the visit, board, search, seizure training during the MEU’s certification exercise. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.

Photo by Lance Cpl. David J. Adams

Force Reconnaissance Marines conduct VBSS exercise

13 Mar 2012 | Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

Looking down the electronic optics on his rifle, yet keenly aware of the sights and sounds surrounding him, the Marine moved with the rest of his squad like a wolf in a pack across the deck of the ship. Swiftly infiltrating the confines of the ship, the Marine force detained all hostile suspects that had stolen away onto a civilian vessel.

No lives were in any danger, however, as Marines of the Force Reconnaissance Platoon, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a visit, board, search, seizure exercise aboard the USNS Matthew C. Perry resupply ship, March 13. The training scenario, carried out on the civilian resupply ship, is meant to familiarize the Marines with the layout of non-military ships as well as being part of the MEU’s certification exercise.

Fast roping from aircraft of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced), the FRP Marines secured the deck of the ship and routinely cleared each level of the vessel with each squad assigned a section.

“The mission was to secure the key parts of the ship, being the bridge, aft steering and engine room as well as detaining the high-value individual,” said Cpl. Jordan Tapangco, squad leader with Trailer Co., Maritime Raid Force. “The four sticks quickly hit the objective, and the stick that I was in secured the target within minutes.”

With snipers provided security from the helicopters above, the Marines made easy work of searching the ship, eventually finding the person of interest and his two bodyguards stowed away among the ship’s personnel.

Completed with the efficiency that marks the reputation of both forces, the FRP and MRF Marines, the Marines egressed back to the USS Essex in preparation for the remainder of the MEU’s CERTEX.

"This training reinforces and sustains our Navy and Marine Corps integration

in a critical mission," said Capt. Barret Bradstreet, commander of the MRF, 31st MEU. "By training to standard in VBSS, we validate the MEU's capacity to conduct these operations throughout the region."

While the VBSS training differs from CERTEX’s ship-to-shore missions, it is also pertinent to modern times. In 2010, the MV Magellan Star, a German container ship, was taken control by pirates off the coast of Somalia. Marines from the 15th MEU MRF were called to action and retook the ship from the pirates, more than justifying the VBSS presence in the MEU’s skill set.

“This training has real-world impact,” said Tapangco. “There is still pirating going on in the world, and while that threat still remains there is always the possibility we will be called to action against it. Whenever it happens, because of this training, we will be ready.”

Following the MEU’s CERTEX, the 31st MEU will continue its deployment in the Asia-Pacific region.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit