SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Queensland, Australia -- SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Queensland, Australia – Crushing the rocks beneath its eight tires, the versatile vehicle rolls through the Australian vegetation while Marines keep a keen eye and sharp ear to the surroundings for an enemy presence. Reconnaissance of the crude path is essential for follow-on movement of the main force of Marines and supplies within the battle space.
Marines and Sailors with Light Armored Reconnaissance platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, use their specialized vehicles to conduct route reconnaissance as a part of exercise Talisman Saber 2013 here, July 27.
The Marines of LAR use several Light Armored Vehicles that combine tactical mobility with the increased firepower of its mounted weapons to defeat soft and armored targets.
“Even though we can move quickly throughout the battle space, we have the firepower with us to counter a heavy engagement,” said Gunnery Sgt. Matthew R. Bywater, LAR platoon sergeant with Weapons Co., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Yucca Valley, Calif. “On every LAV there are two M240B machineguns and a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, giving us a bombardment of stopping power.”
With the combined capabilities the LAV provides, the BLT commander has the flexibility to use the platoon for a variety of missions.
“LAR is a forward engagement element used to provide early warning of enemy presence, support by fire, closing in on an enemy objective and reconnaissance of a mission essential route,” said 1st Lt. William R. Shannon, LAV platoon commander with Weapons Co., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Richmond, Va. “We can cover a lot more ground in a shorter amount of time than a foot patrol while providing our own security by pushing dismounts out and identifying the grid points for higher command.”
Traveling on land at up to 62 mph and swimming in the water at up to 6 mph, the LAV can quickly maneuver into positions that provide tactical advantages over most other wheeled vehicles.
In the rough terrain deep in the Australian Outback of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, LAR platoon was tasked with scouting a route not yet seen by the battalion. Scouting unknown terrain is a strenuous task with potential danger lurking around every corner.
“With our vehicles being the most versatile, our eyes ahead of the main group allows the BLT commander to pick routes in the most effective way possible,” said Lance Cpl. Peter R. Gibson, a rifleman with LAR, Weapons Co., BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Fort Wayne, Ind. “We help paint the picture of the battle space for the commanders to maneuver the troops.”
The Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU are part of an integrated force of approximately 18,000 U.S. service members training alongside approximately 9,000 Australian service members in the fifth iteration of Talisman Saber 2013. The month-long biennial exercise is designed to enhance multilateral collaboration in support of future combined operations, natural disaster, humanitarian and emergency response. The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region and is the only continuously forward deployed MEU.