Photo Information

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Zane Harmon fast ropes from a tower aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, May 12, 2015. Harmon is part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force security element. These Marines practice fast roping to ensure they are prepared for any type of mission during deployment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Anna Albrecht/Released)

Photo by Cpl. Anna Albrecht

First in last out: MRF security element

26 May 2015 | Cpl. Anna Albrecht The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Salt water splashes into the faces of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force as they cruise toward their objective aboard combat rubber raiding craft. As their suspected time on target becomes closer, each Marine quietly considers their personal tasks and how they will protect the Marine by their side.

The CRRCs slow down, and they navigate through the shadows toward the building they will soon breach into. When they pull up to shore, a group of security element Marines immediately get to their positions to set up a secure perimeter around the objective.

During any raid there are three main elements; assault, support and security. Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, make up the Maritime Raid Force security element and take care of that essential mission set. 

“The purpose of the security element is to support [the Force Reconnaissance Detachment] when we do raids,” said Lance Cpl. Jesse Skelton, an automatic rifleman with the MRF. “We provide the inner and outer cordon; we’re the first ones in to set up security so the main force doesn’t have to worry about people coming in or out, and then we’re the last ones off the deck.”

Before integrating with the MRF, the security element went through a screening process and a specialized training package to get more familiar with the way the reconnaissance Marines operate.

“During the screener, we made sure everyone could fast-rope, swim, and was in good physical condition,” Skelton said. “We also did an extended version of the [helicopter egress trainer] because we do a lot of raids with helos. During the security package, we got to shoot a lot of rounds and learn more about our optics and relation to the targets.”

The Marines also learned more about maneuvering through a house, setting up an inner and outer cordon around buildings, patrolling, and vehicle interdiction.

After the security package, they started integrating with the Force Reconnaissance Detachment and worked with them throughout the 15th MEU’s pre-deployment exercise. The Marines had the opportunity to learn several things a typical infantry unit may not get exposed to.

“We trained in [rigid-hulled inflatable boats] and CRRCs, fast-roped off different platforms, did hook-and-climbs on boats and gas and oil platforms and learned about different types of gear,” Skelton said. “For example, Recon has some dive or jump missions so we can kind of help them out and learn how to pack a parachute or set up dive gear.”

Knowing how to work the different gear, weapons, and equipment is important so they can help and support the mission.

“When the security element comes out for our missions, say they’re going to be doing a CRRC raid, they’re going to need to know how to start up those engines and what their responsibilities are on the boat,” said Cpl. Jake Warden, a member of the Force Recon Detachment. “In case we come up to the shore and one guy gets taken down, they can fill in that spot and be efficient in that position. Also with the pistol, if a guy goes down or his weapon malfunctions and he needs another weapon, we can hand him our pistol and he knows how to use it properly and efficiently.”

This extra knowledge helps each Marine be more proficient at their job.

Skelton explained that being with the MRF is like getting to know a whole different side of the Marine Corps. The community is a lot smaller so they have more time to work on things at an individual level. Since they’re used to a different environment and way of doing things, they can all learn from each other’s backgrounds.

“Working with the security element is great,” Warden said. “Not only can we take over as mentors and teachers for these guys, in certain things they may not necessarily know how to do or aren’t proficient in, but they can also bring us back to the basics and instruct us on machine guns, their rifles and everything we’ve kind of started to neglect. We have to do so many different qualifications so sometimes we forget, but they are able to bring us back to the basics.”

When the security element goes back to BLT 3/1 after the MEU, they will be able to pass on their knowledge and assist the rest of their community.

“I think it will benefit us when we go back, just because we’ll have that many more experiences doing different things,” Skelton said. “We’ve gotten to see a completely different side of the Marine Corps and gotten to do a little bit more high-speed missions so we can teach the junior Marines a lot. I’m going to do my best to pass on as much knowledge I’ve learned from the MRF as I can because, truthfully it’s not ours to keep, it’s ours to pass on.”

The MRF Marines will continue to work together and learn from each other during their deployment through the 5th and 7th Fleets. This training and sustainment will ensure they are prepared for any mission they may encounter.