CORAL SEA --
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit patrols the Indo-Pacific region, ready to respond to any threat with swiftness and lethality. As the only continuously forward deployed MEU, they require units that specialize in self-sufficient and rapid deployment. Golf Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, fills this requirement as the MEU’s amphibious raid company.
Golf Company is comprised of around 150 Marines who deploy from ship to shore in combat rubber raiding craft. Utilizing these CRRCs, the company can rapidly deploy infantry to raid an enemy stronghold. The intention of these raids is to attack an objective, complete the mission and leave before the enemy can react. While other companies may require other units’ helicopter or mechanical assets for transportation, Golf Company can attack from and return to a ship in the CRRCs that they have mastered conducting raids with.
The company spent five months training prior to deployment to become experts in amphibious raids and reconnaissance. With training in Coronado, California, the mechanics, coxswains, combat swimmers, combat assault climbers and raid force Marines of Golf Company underwent specialty schools to become familiar with CRCCs and other technical aspects of amphibious operations. According to Staff Sgt. Anthony N. Stea, the chief coxswain with Golf Company, this training makes the company flexible, efficient and able to execute amphibious raids while deployed with the MEU in the Pacific.
“We don’t need support to get to an objective,” said Stea. “Within our own company, we have the Marines to operate the boats, maintain the boats, provide reconnaissance and execute the raids.”
Our main job is to secure the beach Lance Cpl. John T. Spitzmiller, the chief scout swimmer with Golf Company
A coxswain is the Marine in charge of the CRRC. Training for two months, they learn how to navigate the water and control the boat in order to ensure the safety of the Marines in their CRRC.
“Often people tend to think of coxswains as no more than boat drivers, but they are much more than that,” said Stea. “It is understanding how to land and get the raid force on the beach without being detected. It goes into launching off the back of a ship safely and how to recover the CRRCs onto the ship. Every person and piece of equipment in the boat is the responsibility of the coxswain, and it is our job to get them to shore and back to the boat safely.”
Boat mechanics were the first Marines to attend school in Coronado. The course is two and a half months of classroom and practical application training. Before deployment with the MEU, the Marines learn preventative maintenance and engine repair. These mechanics are integral to keeping the company operational, according to Lance Cpl. Jonathan P. Painter, the chief mechanic with Golf Company.
“I am in charge of 12 mechanics, whose job is to perform maintenance on the engines before, during and after raids,” said Painter. “If an engine has issues on the water, we are able to fix it. We use everything at our disposal to make sure the mission gets done.”
Another essential asset to the raids are the assault climbers of Golf Company. Their school, a one and a half month course, makes these Marines experts in traversing cliffs, steep earth and urban climbing obstacles, enabling the company to attack from avenues that the enemy least expects, according to Lance Cpl. Dylan M. Thompson, the chief assault climber with Golf Company.
Photo by Cpl. Brennan Priest
Marines with Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepare to launch Combat Rubber Raiding Craft during a boat raid exercise aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland, underway in the Coral Sea, July 3, 2019. Ashland, part of the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st MEU, is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency, while simultaneously providing a flexible and lethal crisis response force ready to perform a wide range of military operations.
“Raids are often conducted in areas the enemy doesn’t want to be in,” said Thompson. “Many of the situations we operate in will include cliff faces or similar terrain features, and we provide the ability to navigate over those obstacles and get to the objective.”
While on a raid, the company employs scout swimmers to move ahead of the main force. They participate in three weeks of physically demanding training. Once in the water, they carry minimal equipment in order to move quickly, conduct reconnaissance and mark surf patterns and possible obstacles so the coxswains know where to orient the CRRCs.
"Our main job is to secure the beach," said Lance Cpl. John T. Spitzmiller, the chief scout swimmer with Golf Company. “We do forward reconnaissance, making sure the Marines are safe to land and the surf conditions are right for the boats to come in.”
Several of the most important leadership positions in Golf Company are held by lance corporals. Despite being the most junior in the company, effective leadership by these Marines has made the company a more reliable asset for the MEU.
“Having a junior Marine in a leadership position is going to help them in their career, giving them valuable experience,” said Painter. “They are also going to bring new ideas to the table, they bring up ideas from junior ranks and present those to leadership based on their billets.”
Due to their superior performance, these lance corporals hold billets normally held by more senior, more experienced Marines.
“Within our company, we have lance corporals filling key billets,” said Staff Sgt. Stea. “Our chief assault climber, chief scout swimmer and chief mechanic are all junior Marines. Yes, they may be lance corporals, but they have proven to be dependable. They were assigned those billets based on their performance, knowledge and motivation in that job skill.”
Golf Company is an integral part of the 31st MEU. The effective leadership by Marines at all levels and the company’s ability to conduct self-sufficient, flexible amphibious raids are key to mission completion for the MEU. While patrolling the Pacific, the MEU is ready to respond to threats swiftly, with lethality by sea, due in no small part to Golf Company.