ABOARD USS KEARSARGE -- Most Americans consider it the height of fashion to ride to work in gleaming sport-utility vehicles, with chrome trim and alloy wheels. For the Marines of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, the ride to work may not be as clean, but it's a lot more exciting.
In this particular instance, "work" for the MEU's Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Platoon and Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT) was a simulated destruction raid on a weapons transshipment site just in from the coast of Camp Lejeune, N.C., on March 31, 2007.
The ride started when the Marines were launched out of the back of the USS Kearsarge on a Landing Craft Air-Cushioned. The massive hover craft flew across the water and right onto the beach. When the ramp dropped, Marines poured from the landing craft mounted on Humvees and Light Armored Vehicles.
Navy technicians joined LAR and CAAT on the mission, which was designed to locate, exploit and destroy weapons caches used by mock "insurgents."
The teams found a wide variety of weapons -- everything from improvised explosive devices, to rocket propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests. The Navy techs used a controlled explosion to destroy the cache.
"We have a lot of lives on the line every time we get called," said one of the Navy technicians who recently returned from a combat tour of duty in Iraq. "That's why a lot of emphasis is put on training before actually going out to do our job."
The training exercise, which saw the Marines working closely with their naval counterparts, will come in handy when CAAT and LAR deploy as part of the MEU's Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, later this year.
"This training evolution is important to us because we are more likely to conduct a raid mission more than anything else, and all involved need to be on the same page," explained Sgt. Clarence Hopkins, the chief scout for LAR platoon.
This was the first of many raid exercises the Marines with the LAR platoon will be conducting during the pre-deployment phase of their training cycle.
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit includes a Ground Combat Element - Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; an Aviation Combat Element - Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced); a Logistics Combat Element - Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and the Command Element. The MEU will be deploying this summer. For more on the 22nd MEU, visit the unit's website at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.