By Cpl. Demetrius Morgan, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit
MARINE CORPS TRAINING AREA BELLOWS, Hawaii --
For decades, Marine Expeditionary Units have operated alongside their Amphibious Ready Group counterparts throughout the world's oceans as forward-deployed crisis response forces. In the first stop along the 11th MEU's WESTPAC 14-2 deployment, Marines and sailors of the MEU demonstrated their expeditionary nature, and continued their preparation for the uncertainty of world events by way of multiple training events aboard Training Area Bellows, Hawaii.
“Training in Hawaii provided the opportunity for elements of the MEU, particularly our ACE, recon detachment, and one infantry company, to increase their proficiency in a wide range of skillsets,” said Lt. Col. Chris DeAntoni, the 11th MEU’s operations officer. “We have the responsibility to provide our nation with an able crisis response force, and this training helped to expand our expeditionary proficiency.”
Before the MEU departed San Diego, July 25, Marines with the reconnaissance detachment landed in Hawaii to get an early start on training. In most real-world situations, a reconnaissance element would take similar actions and insert into an area before other ground forces arrived.
The recon detachment conducted numerous amphibious exercises to sharpen their skills. They also conducted ground-based training, including close quarter tactics training with small-arms weaponry and sniper training.
Before inserting an infantry company for a vertical assault, designated planners and liaisons from the MEU’s command element were transported from the USS Makin Island to a simulated U.S. Embassy via MV-22B Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced). Routinely, the distance between the origin and objective for an Osprey is within a few hundred miles. For this exercise, the MEU inserted its Forward Command Element from a distance of more than 800 nautical miles, demonstrating the capabilities of the MEU and the aviation element.
“Missions such as these highlight the extensive reach of the MEU,” said Col. Matthew Trollinger, the 11th MEU commanding officer. “We can arrive swiftly where our forces are needed and have an immediate positive impact on the situation.”
During a long-range raid conduced by Golf Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, Marines encountered unfamiliar terrain around the objective which forced them to rely on procedures and routes developed in the planning process.
Once all personnel were inserted, Marines with Golf Co. executed a long-range raid training exercise followed by various sustainment training. It was their first training evolution while underway.
“This situation simulates perfectly what an actual assault on an objective is like,” said Capt. Thomas Driscoll, the company commander of Golf Co. “Rules of engagement is key here, so that means we have to utilize the ‘hostile act, hostile intent’ concept because how we conduct ourselves in a foreign setting directly affects the perception of the Marine Corps and the U.S. as a whole.”
Immediately after insert, Golf Co. maneuvered through the forest to infiltrate the objective from behind. When they arrived, each section of the company assaulted the objective from a unique angle.
“There are times where you realize why you do certain things and why we do them over and over,” said Sgt. Geovani Flores, a squad leader with Golf Co. “We went into an unknown area and executed perfectly and it’s because we do this all the time.”
After securing the objective, Golf Co. entered into the next phase or their training, which was area sustainment.
“There are two things we want to do after securing the objective,” said 1st Lt. Ryan Hilgendorf, a platoon commander with Golf Co. “We want to sustain the objective until we evacuate, which means being ready for a counter attack at all times. The second thing we try to do is use the setting to conduct follow on training, so we can stay sharp and hone on some of those basic skills.”
They provided security in the area for three days until it was time to evacuate. Marines egressed the same way they infiltrated, moving tactically through the terrain and providing security at designate checkpoints. Even while waiting for aircraft to arrive, Golf Co. provided maximum security.
“We always have to be ready,” said Hilgendorf. “You never know when a counter attack is going to happen. During the evacuation is one of the more likely times a counter attack could happen, so we can’t be complacent even for a second, especially when lives could be on the line.”
The MEU will continue to train throughout their deployment to hone their skills and maintain readiness.