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Marines with Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, provide security and advance on their objective during a helicopter raid here, March 16. The raid was conducted during the MEU’s Certification Exercise, which upon completion certifies that the MEU is capable to respond to a wide range of contingency operations. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Michael S. Oxton

Helo training gives Marines element of surprise

16 Mar 2012 | Sgt. Paul Robbins Jr.

When an allied nation identified an insurgent stronghold within one of their communities, they called on the expeditionary capabilities of the Marines to rectify the situation.

This was the scenario for Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, during a helicopter raid here, conducted for the unit’s Certification Exercise, March 16.

More than 60 Marines from the company departed the USS Essex via CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (REIN), fast-roping in to the target area.

The helicopter borne, fast rope technique is a rapid insertion method used to give the assaulting force an advantage.

“It provides the element of surprise and speed, so the enemy can’t get away. It is very beneficial in certain scenarios,” said Capt. Nicholas Bassit, commanding officer of Company C, BLT 1/4, from Lima, Ohio.

The Marines were inserted approximately 500 meters from their objective, moving on foot to three adjacent structures identified as the enemy stronghold.

The structures contained enemy forces, portrayed by Marine and civilian role players, carrying rifles and machine guns with simulated ammunition to defend their position.

The detailed scenario, created and monitored by Special Operations Training Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, provides for the most realistic training environment possible.

“We have rounds, we’re shooting at people who are shooting back at us and we have (simulated) casualties,” said Lance Cpl. Juan Barajas, rifleman for Company C, BLT 1/4, from Los Angeles, Calif. “It’s as realistic as we can get.”

In addition to their insert by the CH-46’s, the assault force was supported by AH-1 Super Cobra helicopters from HMM 265 (REIN) and AV-8B Harriers from Marine Attack Squadron 214. The aerial assets provided intelligence, surveillance, and close air support throughout the raid.

Integration with aircraft for raid operations is the specialty of Company C, commonly referred to as “Helo Company” within the MEU, but their capabilities when linked with the Air Combat Element extend beyond combat operations.

“We’re a very versatile force that can deal with a lot of things, Said Bassitt. “For us, for Helo Company, we focus on raid operations, but were capable of doing other things as well.”

Elements of “Helo Company” are integral parts in humanitarian and disaster relief operations, non-combatant evacuations, and nearly every other facet of the 31st MEU’s mission as the United States force in readiness for the Asia-Pacific region.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit