COMBINED ARMS TRAINING CENTER CAMP FUJI, Japan --
An established ally has seen its sovereign territory encroached upon by special forces from a neighboring nation, and these "Black Berets" must be stopped before they gain a foothold.
This was the scenario for the Maritime Raid Force of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit as they conducted their Realistic Urban Training Exercise, evaluated by Special Operations Training Group here, July 7-9.
The MRF conducted a pair of raids on urban targets, using paint rounds to engage enemy role players defending the buildings. Each raid required the force to conduct surveillance on the target, breach the perimeter of the facility, eliminate hostile targets inside and gather intelligence for the next objective.
"This training allows each element of the MRF to hone its specific skill set in a realistic urban environment," said 1st Lt. Travis Mossy, security element platoon commander for the MRF, 31st MEU.
The MRF consists of three elements with specific tasks in the execution of a mission. The amphibious reconnaissance platoon provides reconnaissance and surveillance on targets. The force reconnaissance platoon is the raid force that seizes the target. The security element is an infantry platoon responsible for providing a cordon and security around the target.
The first raid conducted by the MRF, was on a two story structure within the camp. The force was given very little notice before executing the mission, requiring fast and effective coordination among all elements. The Marines of the MRF used a circular saw and explosives to breach the perimeter of the building before clearing nearly a dozen rooms in the structure.
The second raid was planned and coordinated over multiple days, allowing the MRF to insert their surveillance asset to observe the enemy. Intelligence from this observation led the Marines of the raid team to fast-rope from CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, provided by Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (REIN), onto a two story structure in the camp's Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) facility. The large, hotel-like structure provided dozens of rooms for enemy forces to hide in.
In each raid, 8-10 Marine role players provided a dynamic enemy for the MRF to engage. But the significant feature for both raids was the element of the unknown.
"Training here on Fuji provides an unfamiliar environment that adds to the realism of the training," said Mossy, a native of San Diego, Calif.
The purpose of the exercise is to integrate unique individual and small unit skills in order to increase the proficiency for the 31st MEU's rapid response planning process in a challenging and unfamiliar environment, according to Capt. George W. Goddard, assistant officer in charge of Special Missions Branch, SOTG.
The training is typically conducted twice per year by the 31st MEU, but this version of RUTEX had an added twist. Sections of the command element, to include operations, intelligence, communications and supply, made the trip with the MRF to set up an expeditionary command and control center.
The experience proved valuable to the command element's preparation for upcoming deployments.
"This is a very short work-up cycle for the 31st MEU and this exercise came early in the process because it's graduate level work," said Lt. Col. Brian C. Hawkins, operations officer for the 31st MEU and native of Chandler, Ariz. " It allowed us to validate our standard operating procedures for coordination with the MRF."
The 31st MEU is the United States' force in readiness for the Asia Pacific and the Marine Corps' only continuously forward deployed MEU.