OKINAWA, Japan -- OKINAWA, Japan - Preparing for an upcoming deployment, Marines participated in a vertical assault scenario July 18 at the Central Training Area, Okinawa, Japan, during an ongoing Marine Expeditionary Unit exercise.
The scenario incorporated the 31st MEU’s aviation and ground combat elements to test their capabilities in a seize-and-capture response situation which required Marines to fast-rope from a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter.
“This is the first time for us to work underneath the 31st MEU’s command element and execute a vertical assault, integrating the Battalion Landing Team with the ACE,” said Lt. Col. Robert C. Rice, a Richland, Washington, native and the commanding officer of BLT 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st MEU. “It’s an opportunity for us to work together, share standard operating procedures, and make sure that we can accomplish the missions assigned to us by the MEU.”
Currently, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 is the 31st MEU’s ACE and provided support by piloting aircraft and aiding in the insertion of Marines near their objective to seize and capture simulated high-value individuals.
“Today was a little different for us,” said 1st Lt. Ryan P. Castello, an infantry officer with BLT 3rd Bn., 5th Marines, 31st MEU. “We were able to use the fast-rope technique out of the CH-53 and insert into the landing zone when it was untenable for the (aircraft) to land. It allows us to get a little bit closer to the objective, faster.”
There are several different ways Marines can respond to a call for action in the Asia-Pacific area of operation, according to Castello, a Ridgewood, New Jersey, native.
“(This training) is extremely important because in a combat situation we need to be very familiar with the ACE that we’re working with, as well as maintain our ability to execute our tactics, techniques and procedures,” said Castello. “So there are a lot of things that we need to be able to sustain and that we need to improve for future operations.”
The scenario included all levels of the units’ chain of command, so analysis and review could be provided from all participating members to include the battalion commander down to individual riflemen.
“These guys train for this stuff and we try to throw some scenarios in there that they may not be accustomed to, so it’s not just like walking the dog,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason M. Whipkey, a Penns Grove, New Jersey, native and an infantry unit leader with BLT, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines, 31st MEU. “It was evident by how they executed that they had trained to this and it was a success.”