SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Queensland, Australia -- Waves of steel vehicles swarmed the beach as helicopters thundered overhead, both units making a formidable show of force as they pushed inland. On the horizon, behind the waves of oncoming armor and weapons, the rising sun silhouetted the two ships responsible for launching the air and ground assets.
Within their amphibious assault vehicles, the Marines and Sailors of Company G., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, served as the initial Marine landing forces during exercise Talisman Saber 2013 here, July 20.
The reinforced company hit the beach in 14 AAVs to secure the beachhead as a landing site for follow-on forces. The Marines located areas for the forward command operations center and battalion aid station, then held security over the area for the offload of Light Armored Vehicles and High Mobility, Multi-Wheeled Vehicles with the battalion's Combined Anti-Armor Team.
“We're acting as the initial security element for these positions, ensuring no oppositional forces try to retake these locations before the main forces arrive,” said Lance Cpl. Myquel H. Zimmerman, a radio operator with Co. G., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU. “(Company G.) is the brute force to punch through the enemy lines because of the heavy armor and weapons capabilities we bring to the fight with the AAVs.”
Company G. moved toward their second objective, an enemy-held airfield, after Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU, established a presence on the beach. The airfield was quickly secured by the heavily armored unit, allowing for follow-on forces from the battalion's Company E. to land via rotary aircraft to secure a nearby village.
The assault provided the 31st MEU with a secure landing zone on the ground. This ensures that supplies and additional forces from the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and the USS Germantown (LSD 42) can be transported safely ashore.
While capturing their two objectives, Co. G. saw little more than their own piece of an operation that used the full spectrum of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force . Spending much of their time in the AAVs and with no enemy contact during the assault, the Marines and Sailors were not able to see the full strength of a MAGTF at work as they fulfilled their individual roles.
“What is really extraordinary about the past few days is that three units were planning and operating to bring simultaneous actions together in order to meet a common goal,” said Capt. Patrick H. Joseph, commanding officer of Co. G., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU. “Each element of the 31st MEU MAGTF has capabilities applicable to every stage of the exercise, so from beginning to end, each unit will be in support of the mission.”
AV-8b Harrier jets from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced) dropped notional bombs on the beach and airfield objectives to eliminate the bulk of the oppositional force prior to Co. G.'s assault. The Maritime Raid Force, consisting of the amphibious and force reconnaissance platoons, plus a security element from the BLT, then swept through the areas to neutralize any pockets of enemy resistance. It was after these actions Co. G. secured the beach, but not all of the MEU MAGTF had joined the fight.
CLB-31 offloaded personnel and equipment to assume security responsibility for the beach, and establish the forward COC and supply assets. VMM-265's rotary-wing aircraft remained overhead during the entire evolution, providing aerial reconnaissance and close air support.
“Not only do we have all elements of our MAGTF in action, but it was all coordinated and launched from the Naval vessels we were embarked on,” said Joseph, a Cincinnati, Ohio, native. “Sea, land, and air combat assets, with logistical support forward and in the rear, all working at once from ship at sea.”
This is the first occasion for many of the Marines and Sailors to witness the full spectrum of a MAGTF at work. Even veterans of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom found the undertaking impressive.
“Even during my deployment to Afghanistan I never saw each operational element come together like this,” said Zimmerman, a native of Eugene, Ore. “It's actually comforting to know we have close-air and mortar support at our fingertips like this. It's a great experience to see it all come together.”
Talisman Saber 2013 is a biennial training exercise between approximately 18,000 joint U.S. forces and approximately 9,000 Australian forces, aimed at improving combat readiness and interoperability.
The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for the Asia Pacific region and the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.