MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- An urban training town at Camp Pendleton, California, was tranquil during the afternoon of April 1, 2015. Targets were spread across the town to simulate enemy insurgents, but they remained in position without harassment. Only small gusts of wind were audible as they swept across buildings, but the silence was abruptly broken when a scout sniper began engaging targets from a hidden position several hundred meters outside the town.
The sniper, a reconnaissance Marine with Company C, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, engaged and destroyed targets one by one. Simultaneously, AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopters flew overhead and engaged targets located behind the town with high explosive missiles. As the helicopters annihilated targets, Marines in support positions on a nearby hill filled the area with gunfire as they engaged numerous targets from mounted M240B medium machine guns and Squad Automatic Weapons.
Within minutes, an MV-22B Osprey landed in a nearby field and recon Marines sprinted out of the aircraft armed to the teeth with M4 Carbines, M203 Grenade Launchers, Infantry Automatic Rifles, and explosives. They quickly maneuvered across a ravine and were soon within the urban town.
Although it seemed like chaos had erupted in a short time frame, everything was going as planned for the platoon's coordinated raid on Range 226. Raids are classified as an offensive operation with a planned withdrawal, and are typically sudden and quick.
“So we go in, find a high-value individual, high-value target, or sensitive materials, and head out,” said Gunnery Sgt. David Kahill, a platoon sergeant with Co. C. “We’re not there to take ground, we’re there to get something of importance and leave.”
The Marines made their way into their first compound and discovered a weapons cache and other sensitive materials. Before they could gather the materials, the platoon came under simulated gunfire and returned fire to multiple targets nearby. Inside, the compound roared like thunder as the closed area amplified the explosions of rounds being fired.
The reconnaissance men quickly eliminated the targets, consolidated the confiscated weapons, and began to maneuver to the back end of the town to destroy the final targets. They maneuvered in buddy pairs as others covered them to keep constant security. Once they reached the end of the town, the Marines kneeled on line and engaged their final targets. High-explosive rounds from M203 grenade launchers and rockets eradicated the final targets.
“A great thing about the reconnaissance community is there are very intelligent and mature individuals,” said Capt. Bradley Fromm, platoon commander, Charlie Co. “There is a lot less supervision that needs to occur and there is a lot more action taking place.””
After they eliminated the final threats, the platoon maneuvered back into the first building they cleared for their planned withdrawal. Before they could get there, a Marine received simulated shrapnel wounds and needed immediate medical attention. A Navy corpsman with the platoon was on scene in an instant to treat the wounds.
Ultimately the Marines assisted the corpsmen with moving the casualty to the building and an MV-22B Osprey was enroute to pick the platoon up for extraction. As the Osprey neared, a Marine with demolitions buried the confiscated materials, set a timed charge, and departed the building with the platoon to the landing zone for pickup.
Four minutes after the Marine set the charge, the platoon was staged at the extraction point and the explosives detonated, destroying all of the buried materials. A UH-1Y Huey helicopter flew into the area to provide cover for the extraction with a scout sniper aboard to eliminate any potential threats. Moments later, the Osprey arrived and the platoon flew out of sight. From insertion to extraction, the Marines were out of the area in less than one hour.
Completing the live-fire raid was one of several crucial training exercises Co. C is slated to complete before they deploy in support of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Opposed to conducting amphibious or ground reconnaissance and surveillance, once the company attaches to the 13th MEU they will become part of the maritime raid force, which is the MEU's capability for small-scale specialized raids.