LZ CARDINAL, Okinawa, Japan --
The Marines and Sailors sat shoulder-to-shoulder inside their amphibious assault vehicles as the sounds of growling engines and vehicle tracks gripping the metal deck echoed off the hulls inside the ship.
Marines and Sailors with Company A., Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a mechanized raid from the USS Germantown (LSD-42) to a training area here, Jan 24.
While the 31st MEU’s “Mech” Company has been training with amphibious assault vehicles since arriving on Okinawa more than a month ago, this was their first ship to shore projection of forces from ship.
“When sitting inside these AAVs, we are completely closed off with no way to know what is going on outside,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Chalmers, a fire team leader with Company A., BLT 1/5, 31st MEU and a native of Albany, Ga. “All we can hear are the engines turning on, then we lurch forward and we’re moving. Slipping off the back of a ship while inside an AAV almost feels like being on a rollercoaster.”
Taking advantage of the opportunity to train prior to the upcoming deployment, the Marines were able to gain the experience of integrating with the Navy at sea while continuing to hone their infantry skills.
“These Marines know where they need to be once we exit the AAV, but that transition takes time to perfect,” said Cpl. Erik R. Melton, a squad leader with Company A., BLT 1/5, 31st MEU and a native of Grand Rapids, Mich. “Continuing to perfect our skills not only helps for our upcoming training exercises alongside Asia-Pacific allies, but helps us prepare for a real life scenario.”
The day’s scenario was to stop a terrorist organization. The notional enemy was a group of drug and stolen weapons traffickers that had become a threat to the surrounding area.
The company was given the mission of eliminating the enemy force, a familiar task for the infantry Marines. The 31st MEU’s “Mech” Company surrounded the numerically inferior force, eliminating the role-players through fire and maneuver.
“It is this kind of realistic training that reinforces the MEU’s overall skills and capabilities, enabling the unit to be the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for this region,” according to Gunnery Sgt. James A. Cornwell, the foreign area staff non-commissioned officer and a native of American Fork, Utah.
After the area was completely secured, the Marines and Sailors re-boarded their AAV’s and withdrew to the USS Germantown. The raid completed another stage of the BLT’s pre-deployment training for the 31st MEU’s Spring Patrol 2013. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.