CENTRAL TRAINING AREA, OKINAWA, Japan -- CENTRAL TRAINING AREA, OKINAWA, Japan – For Lance Cpl. Kenneth R. Murray Jr, assaulting a mock urban town during a vertical assault feels routine, until it is done in Okinawa, Japan.
“The jungle is way different,” said Murray, a machine gunner. “They say Marines fight in ‘any clime and place’ and this is definitely a different clime and place.”
Murray, from Rosebud, Texas, and other Marines with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, got a taste of the jungle when they executed a vertical assault on Combat Town Dec. 10 in the Central Training Area.
First, several MV-22B Ospreys and CH-53E Super Stallions with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), 31st MEU, dropped a company-sized force of Marines off at their designated landing zone. Next the Marines treaded a few hundred yards through challenging thick jungle terrain to reach Combat Town.
Many of the Marines honed their vertical assault skills in desert conditions prior to their deployment to the Asia-Pacific. However, the Okinawan environment added a new level of difficulty in an already complicated and dangerous mission.
“We are usually in wide open areas where we can move around without having to worry about being caught on vines and branches,” said Murray. “My machinegun got caught in the bush and it was a fight to get it out.”
After successfully maneuvering through dense vegetation to Combat Town, the Marines gave the simulated enemy force a message to peacefully surrender. Cpl. Nicholas Hamilton, a squad leader for Company E, BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, advanced his team toward their object after the enemy did not accept the ultimatum. Within seconds they were engaging enemy forces using blank rounds to simulate real combat.
“Now that we have done the vertical assault in the jungle, we know how to properly insert into the jungle,” said Hamilton, from Wichita Falls, Texas. “It is way harder than inserting into the vast opening of the desert so my Marines got more training on keeping their bearing and finding their way.”
Regardless of how many times Hamilton repeats this type of assault, he understands that there is room for improvement. Actively working on assaults and raids, he and his fellow Marines build muscle memory and confidence.
“I’m not thinking about anything back at home or anything else other than the situation on hand,” said Hamilton. “Once in that combat mindset I am usually focusing on that job and that job only.”
Cpl. Edwin Pena, a fellow squad leader, has the responsibility to engage the enemy forces while directing his Marines and ensuring their overall safety and mission accomplishment.
“As a leader you have to be able stay calm, watch your guys and keep control,” said Pena, a squad leader with BLT 2/4, Co. E, 31st MEU. “If I don’t stay calm my Marines will see that and they will think that their leader is losing his composure and they will think that I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Working together, the Marines were able to subdue the enemy forces, take minimal casualties and complete the mission.
“I like to see when the Marines bring all their training together,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Krolicki, an infantry officer with BLT 2/4, Co. E, 31st MEU. “We spend a lot of time rehearsing MOUT room clearing, helo inserts and a lot of other basic skills. It’s good to see not just my platoon, but other platoons come together and have a good turn out.”
Echo Company makes up the primary vertical assault unit of the Battalion Landing Team and it is essential that they are familiar with any type of terrain for when they are needed to perform these types of insertions.
“Having done assaults in both the desert and now the jungle is like learning at the extreme of two evils,” said Hamilton. “After dealing with the heat of the desert and now the rough terrain of the jungle I feel confident and I feel that I can do everything in between now.”
The Marines and sailors of BLT 2/4 and VMM-262 (REIN) are currently assigned to the 31st MEU as the ground and aviation combat elements and are conducting pre-deployment preparations for the regularly-scheduled Spring Patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.