KIN BLUE TRAINING AREA, Okinawa, Japan -- Focused on a fluorescent orange flag waving at the center of the beach, coxswains guide their boats over the unfamiliar surface of Okinawan waters. Closing on the beach in a tight formation, more than a dozen boats prepare to unleash the power of a Marine rifle company.
Marines and Sailors with Company F., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, executed a daytime boat raid here, June 8. The training exercise allowed the force to practice every aspect of an amphibious raid, except for the use of a Navy ship as the starting point.
The raid began with the company floating in Combat Rubber Raiding Craft more than 1,000 meters from the beach landing site. From that distance, scout swimmers exited the boats to covertly swim ashore in small teams.
The mission of scout swimmers in a boat raid includes: recognizing water conditions, getting ashore unseen, eliminating enemy sentries, identifying a useable landing site, securing the area and signaling the raid force when it is clear to begin. Applying all of their skills in a new environment provided the swimmers valuable experience.
“This raid gave us a chance to become familiar with the environment,” said Lance Cpl. Jackson M. Dodd, a scout swimmer for Company F., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Fort Meyers, Fla. “It helped us to know what to expect with the currents and surf around here.”
Following the “go” sign from the scout swimmers, more than a dozen CRRC boats landed on the beach carrying multiple platoons of the BLT’s “Boat Company.” More than 100 Marines and Sailors pulled their weapons out of waterproof bags and moved up the beach into security positions for accountability.
Once the entire unit was assembled, the force pushed its way into the jungle en route to their objective. The thick Okinawan vegetation provided the initial challenge before the enemy role players at the objective tested the company’s skill in the assault.
“The unique vegetation of the jungle makes us adjust the movements and maneuvers we would use on terrain like Camp Pendleton,” said Sgt. Elton A. Ricketts, a squad leader for Co. F., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU. “Putting all of our skill sets together in this one event builds our confidence in conducting a raid.”
The training exercise was a part of the unit’s pre-deployment training package in preparation for their upcoming patrol. The training is designed to hone the BLT’s capabilities in responding to any contingency that may arise during the deployment.
During this training cycle, the Marines and Sailors of “Boat Company” were also afforded the opportunity to sharpen their skills in the integration of foreign forces. A platoon of Japanese soldiers spent approximately two weeks living with and observing the company’s training in order to gain knowledge in amphibious operations.
“It was great to have the Japanese around for our training because it puts the Marines in the mindset of teaching as well as learning,” said Ricketts, a native of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for the Asia-Pacific region and the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.