CAMP SHIELDS, Okinawa, Japan -- Hovering low over the blacktop in CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, Force Reconnaissance Marines glide down ropes to fill the landing zone in a matter of seconds. Before the enemy has time to react, multiple squads have surrounded the building and closed off every avenue of escape.
Marines and Sailors with the Maritime Raid Force of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit boarded aircraft from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced), 31st MEU, and conducted a time sensitive raid here, Jan. 7.
The 31st MEU was given the mission just hours before it needed to be executed, increasing the challenge of planning and executing the raid. But these types of missions are not uncommon for the Marine Corps’ force-in-readiness.
“MEU missions almost always require short-notice responses,” said Lt. Col. Brian C. Hawkins, the Operations Officer for the 31st MEU and a native of Chandler, Ariz. “On some rare occasions, we may get virtually no notice. Practicing these procedures as a team allows swift and decisive action, which gives the MEU incredible agility.”
The Marines and Sailors of the Force Reconnaissance Platoon fast roped from the back of CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters into a parking lot in sight of their target building. For the scenario, abandoned living quarters served as the meeting area for the enemy force role-players.
After all squads were in position, the Marines breached the entry point with explosives. Storming through a smoking entryway, the Marines engaged numerous enemy forces with simulated paint rounds. Door by door, room by room, the Marines fought their way through a multi-level structure to secure the building.
“This training reinforces the elements we learned in (Camp Pendleton) California, forming that full tactical picture,” said Lance Cpl. Paul A. Martin, a rifleman with BLT 1/5, 31st MEU and a native of Colonial Heights, Va. “It’s great that we get to come out here and practice what we signed up to do.”
The objective of the mission was to interrupt an enemy meeting containing multiple high value targets, and capture or kill those targets. The meeting was to begin at 2:30 p.m., and the MRF arrived shortly thereafter.
The security force, a platoon from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st MEU, provided cover for the Recon Marines clearing the building, and insured that no personnel left or entered the building. The cooperation of infantry and reconnaissance Marines is crucial to the mission’s success.
“The BLT and FRP are always separated in daily training, so having a realistic training scenario like this is a good chance for us to come together and work as one,” said Sgt. Robert Dominguez Jr., a squad leader with the Maritime Raid Force and a native of Fresno, Calif. “Working together as one force helps us maintain our combat readiness for any mission, at any time.”
The MRF contains the 31st MEU’s FRP as an assault force, ARP for surveillance, and a platoon of infantrymen from BLT 1/5 as a security element, all working together to form a multifaceted, precision force for the commander of the 31st MEU.
“The special insertion skills and tactical training of the MRF, combined with the versatile assets throughout the rest of the Marine Air Ground Task Force, offer options for limited-scale, precision missions, when a larger force may not be appropriate,” said Hawkins. “The more options the MEU can provide to theater and national decision-makers, the more relevant and useful we are in defending out interests overseas.”
This training is a part of the pre-deployment training package for the 31st MEU’s upcoming Spring Patrol. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.