LZ DODO, Okinawa, Japan --
He was thoroughly soaked from sweat, cramped after sitting in the same spot for hours, and the smell of salt water and exhaust swirled around his nostrils. The only comfort afforded to this Marine was that the hatch would soon open, and the assault would begin.
The Marines of Company E., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a mechanized raid against a notional enemy encampment here, Aug. 11.
Using multiple platoons, reinforced with heavy machine gun squads, the Marines of “Mech” Company rehearsed what they do best: insertion onto a beachhead and assault an objective.
“After splashing for a couple of hours, we unloaded and got cover and concealment in the tree line,” said Lance Cpl. Corwin Morlock, rifleman with 2nd platoon, Co. E., BLT 2/1, 31st MEU and a native of Redwood Falls, Minn. “Once all in place, it was only a matter of minutes before we went hot.”
While the machine gun assets laid suppressing fire from the road, the assault force swung around and flanked the encampment, neutralizing any opposition as they went. When all elements were in position outside the clearing, they rushed in small teams while the notional enemy made its final stand.
“The raid went very smoothly throughout, even in its compressed timeframe,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Ferguson, acting platoon commander for 2nd plt., Co. E., BLT 2/1, 31st MEU. “In approximately 10 minutes, the Marines assaulted the enemy, secured the objective and conducted a thorough tactical site exploitation.”
After searching the bodies for weapons and intelligence materials, the Marines moved back to the AAVs, loaded up and left the beach.
For what was a relatively quick raid with no friendly casualties, the behind-the-scenes planning made this raid anything but simple.
“The intelligence for this raid was partly collected from previous exercises conducted by Companies F and G,” said 1stLt. Joseph Guerrero, platoon commander for 1st plt., Co. E., BLT 2/1, 31st MEU and a native of Naples, Fla. “This succession of raids has been made as real-world as possible because in a combat environment, any intelligence discovered can have an impact on future operations.”
While Companies F and G, “Boat” and “Helo” Companies respectively, operate with their individual insertion methods, Mech Co. has the advantage of being the BLT’s heavily-armed insertion company for contested landings.
“We bring to the table a level of firepower and maneuverability when needed in a short period of time,” said Ferguson, a native of Los Gatos, Calif. “In each AAV we can fit 20 Marines, their gear and supplies to last a week in the field without resupply, armored behind a (M19 automatic) grenade launcher and (M2) .50 caliber machine gun. We can go in a heavy way.”
The mech raid is the last training evolution conducted by the BLT before deployment within the Asia-Pacific region.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.