WHITE BEACH, OKINAWA, Japan --
Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit tactically executed a boat raid, successfully completing the MEU’s certification exercise prior to continuing their deployment in the Asia-Pacific region.
In the dark hours of the morning at White Beach Naval Base, the Marines of Company A., Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, launched in combat rubber raiding craft from the USS Tortuga (LSD-46) for insertion into a location overrun by enemy role players. More than 60 Marines and Sailors crept to shore on the ocean’s current.
“We haven’t done a lot of benign water raids at this point, meaning that instead of coming onto the beach hot and fast, we come in quiet and slow,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Saunders, team leader with Co. A., BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “That was probably the most beneficial part of the training for us, allowing us to be able to insert in a different way.”
Hitting the beach, the Marines’ objective was to clear the area of hostile insurgents, conduct tactical sight exploitation and return control to the local police force. Marines acted as the enemy while Japanese locals represented the civilian populace, contributing to the realism of the exercise.
“The role players upped the educational value because they are thinking and moving targets,” said Lance Cpl. Robert Auerbach, assaultman with Co. A., BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “It makes our training a lot more realistic than fighting a notional enemy.”
In keeping with the purpose of the CERTEX, a test of the MEU’s maritime capabilities with a succession of ship-borne missions, the boat raid was conducted with the highest level of realism possible in a training environment, utilizing simulated ammunition with the aforementioned role players.
“When the raiding forces got on the objective area, having those Marine role players and non-English speaking civilian role players all added to the most realistic training we can get in peacetime,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Armes, executive officer for Special Operations Training Group.
At the end of the exercise, with “Boat Company” egressing to the USS Tortuga, each Marine used the day’s events as a sharpening stone to their skills. Being the nation’s tip of the spear in the Pacific area of operation, realistic training is required to breed operational readiness.
“The overall exercise increases our level of confidence,” said Auerbach, a native of Mt. Horep, WI. “In the end, it gives us a practice-makes-perfect kind of mentality and helps our training eventually become muscle memory.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.