SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Queensland, Australia --
The gust of the rotors covered the area in dust as the aircraft departed the landing zone, leaving a company of Marines behind. Rifles at the ready, the troops move forward into the seemingly endless Australian vegetation, heading northeast toward their objective.
Marines and Sailors with Company E., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, were inserted by aircraft from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st MEU, to secure a key area as a part of Talisman Saber 13 here, July 21.
The scenario of the exercise involves the 31st MEU receiving the mission of executing amphibious operations to eliminate enemy forces and provide security for the civilian populace.
The scenario provides the MEU’s BLT the opportunity to exercise its full spectrum of capabilities in a realistic training environment.
“With a full blown scenario in place and having a detailed understanding of what we are against, we learn how to go from a kinetic environment to posting a local force in control,” said Capt. Kyle Wolfe, the company commander of Company E., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of St. Joseph, Ill. “We are able to do all the things that an infantry company would have to do in a situation like this. We patrol, ambush and fight the enemy, but at the same time we interact with the local civilians and help them out.”
Utilizing the 31st MEU’s Aviation Combat Element, VMM-265 (rein), the insertion utilized four MV-22 Osprey helicopters and two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters to deposit more than 100 Marines and Sailors near their objective. Two AH-1W Cobra helicopters provided close air support around the airfield, ensuring the company was protected from enemy counter-attack during their consolidation.
“The ACE helps transports us from the ship to the shore and can land us in hostile environments because of the security their aircraft provide,” said Sgt. Brock E. Callaway, a squad leader for the combat engineers with Co E., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Bridgeville, Del.
Patrolling through more than a kilometer of thick Australian vegetation, the Marines cautiously moved forward, remaining vigilant for enemy ambushes until the compound was in sight. Intelligence warned that a notable size enemy force was in the area.
Bounding into the objective with overlapping security, the Marines and Sailors found that the sizeable force was nowhere to be seen. Adjustment of the company’s strategy had to be made immediately.
“When we got into the compound and realized that there were not any enemies, adjustments had to be made,” said Cpl. Brent S. Berven, a squad leader with Co E., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of York, Penn. “As soon as boots hit the deck, everything changes. You can plan for everything in the world, but never be ready for every aspect of combat.”
The company switched their mindset of attacking to defending the area. The captured compound would be used as the battalion headquarters during the scenario, where all the planning for future operations would originate.
Talisman Saber 13 is an exercise that includes operational and tactical level training, force integration training and a combined live-fire exercise.
The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia Pacific region and is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.