MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The countdown began in the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter as a reconnaissance Marine held up three fingers signaling how much time remained before the drop. A Combat Rubber Raiding Craft, large enough to fit the six Marines and their combat gear, was packed in the aircraft with Marines in anticipation of employing it.
The Marines maneuvered the CRRC, loaded with gear, out the back of the aircraft; then one by one, jumped into the water and swam to retrieve the craft.
The jump commenced a four-day certification exercise for Marines with Company B, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, at Marine Corps Outlying Field Atlantic, North Carolina, April 23, 2015.
“We’re going to do reconnaissance and surveillance on an objective within one of three known areas of interest,” said Sgt. Jackie B. Johnson, a team leader with the unit and a native of Odessa, Texas. “We will insert two teams through helocasting, followed by a team performing a parachute jump using double-bag static lines.”
Reconnaissance Marines perform two of these certifications a year, with this one being the first for many in the platoon, said Johnson. The event requires cohesiveness because each team is expected to be self-sufficient by using their combined talents to complete the objective.
“I want my Marines to build a firm foundation of the basic skills through this certification,” Johnson said. “We have been building up for this for over four months. It’s been a good opportunity to get to know the Marines in the unit, build trust and learn how to perform more effectively as a reconnaissance team.”
Johnson, whose team performed the helocast insert, said that it provides commanders with alternative methods to accomplish their objective. Because it is a waterborne operation, it makes the team an asset to any expeditionary operation.
“This exercise teaches Marines that we have methods that are effective in helping them move in undetected,” said Staff Sgt. Hollis E. Bouldin, a platoon sergeant with the unit and a native of Houston, Texas. “The two different insert methods we have provide any commander that we work for with more options. We give them the ability to insert reconnaissance Marines in any clime and place.”
Following the helocast, the final team made their way onto the aircraft, outfitted with parachutes, all the gear needed for their exercise and camouflage painted faces; ready to blend into their surroundings as soon as they reached land.
The Marines jumped using double-bag static lines from an altitude of 6,000 feet, and made their way safely to the ground.
“The further from land we can get, whether it’s out in the water or up in the air, the more successful we are at ensuring our teams are not audibly compromised,” said Bouldin.
The infiltration phase began once all three teams reached land. The Marines camouflaged their boats and parachutes with vegetation before moving on to observe their objective. They worked on transmitting encrypted data and imagery they collected back to the main unit to fulfill the Commander’s Critical Information Requirements.
The Marines are trained to maintain their own communications and take high-quality imagery while in the field, according to Bouldin.
“We have to be self-sufficient because if we are pushed far enough behind enemy lines, sometimes the enemy’s threat does not allow for external support,” said Bouldin. “It is critical to our mission for us to be able to support ourselves if necessary.”