HAGATNA, Guam --
Breaking the silence of the warm night, three helicopters shoot over the horizon and toward their target. Touching down for mere seconds, they offload dozens of passengers in complete darkness, unleashing a deadly force into the night.
Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, the unit’s special operations element, executed the semiannual Realistic Urban Training Exercise here, Jan. 8 through 10.
Spread between Anderson Air Force Base and Hagatna, multiple operations made up the framework of a long-range raid scenario intended to diversify the MRF’s training.
“Guam gives us an amazing training opportunity to work in a new, unique environment,” said Col. Brian McGowan, officer-in-charge of the Special Operations Training Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “They’re seeing real patterns of life and dealing with distractions they would not deal with at a training base or camp in Okinawa, adding a high degree of complexity to the operation.”
From parachute insertion to urban sniper hides, RUTEX puts the MRF’s capabilities to the test, taking them out of familiar training territory and giving them a plethora of variables to manage. But all the complexities of RUTEX culminate in the final 30 minutes of training, during the actual execution of the raid.
Conducted at the empty wastewater treatment plant in Hagatna, the sniper teams hidden across town neutralized an enemy sentry, allowing the entrance of the MRF’s Force Reconnaissance Platoon via UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters of the Navy’s Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25. The Marines quickly secured a perimeter around the target structures, breached the door with an explosive charge and quickly dispatched notional enemies inside.
With the objective cleared, the FRP located the notional weapon system they had been sent to recover and withdrew on the Blackhawk helicopters. In less than an hour, the small force executed a precision strike on an urban target.
“You don’t see all the complex pieces going into it, including the multiple (reconnaissance and surveillance) positions and the sniper over-watch,” said Capt. Stephen Bender, special missions branch assistant officer-in-charge, SOTG, III MEF. “Additionally, the execution of a long-range raid requires aerial refueling, communications, aviation assets, et cetera, all coming together for a successful exercise on foreign soil.”
The first evolution of RUTEX in 2013 provided two distinctly unique training opportunities for the MRF. This exercise was the first time in years where the MRF platoons conducted low-level, static line parachute insertions into urban hides. Also, the sniper fire on the raid location provided ARP the opportunity to practice precision fire in a populated urban environment from more than 400 meters at night.
RUTEX is a part of the pre-deployment training 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.