FORT PICKETT, VA. --
Fumes from the amphibious assault vehicle’s loud, diesel engine fill the compartment where 12 Marines sit. The vehicle bounces down a dirt road maneuvering rapidly toward the objective.
The vehicle comes to a halt, the rear ramp descends quickly and Marines sprint to their positions to begin firing at a hostile enemy.
This was the beginning of a mechanized assault performed by Easy Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, at the infantry platoon battle course aboard Ft. Pickett, Va., Dec. 7, 2010.
The assault exercise utilized AAVs, artillery and mortars in support of an infantry platoon to destroy an entrenched enemy position. During this portion of the training, the Marines of BLT 2/2, many of which are combat veterans, turn their fury on mechanical targets.
The Marines yelled over the gunfire to coordinate movement and the direction of fire. They aggressively assaulted the enemy positions, clearing trenches and assaulting bunkers with deadly efficiency.
“The biggest challenge was communication,” said Sgt. Lincoln D. Hughes, a squad leader with Easy Company and Seneca, S.C., native. “We’ve got new squad leaders and new team leaders and we have to be able to work together and communicate.”
As the platoon neared the end of the course, they began to call in artillery and mortar fire. Explosions echoed throughout the range and dust and debris filled the distant air.
While some Marines suppressed the enemy through superior firepower, others moved through tree lines to flank the enemy.
Once the Marines cleared the final trenches, they made their way back to the waiting AAVs, piled inside and left the range to prepare for their next exercise.
The Marines employed multiple assets to overtake a notional enemy. One day in their future, the Marines may be fighting an actual enemy.
Marines are known for their ability to fight through austere conditions and defeat well-entrenched enemies. Ranges like the IPBC help train the BLT Marines as they prepare to deploy with the 22nd MEU.
“For a lot of these Marines it is the first time they’ve seen the AAVs and fire support integrated with what we do,” said Hughes. “For this work up this is the first large scale battle that we’ve done.”
As a force in readiness, anything could happen while on deployment and the Marines have to be ready to respond.
“This training is very useful,” said Lance Cpl. James M. Thurman, a team leader with Easy Company and Petersburg, Ill., native. “We did pretty well today. I’m proud of my team.”
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its command element.
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are in the early stages of their pre-deployment training program, which is a series of progressively, more complex exercises designed to train and test the MEU's ability to operate as a cohesive and effective fighting force.
Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps’ smallest permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force, commanded by a colonel and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response capabilities in a hostile or crisis mission. While deployed, each MEU also incorporates two KC-130 aircraft available from the continental U.S. to support the unit’s operations abroad.
There are seven U.S. Marine Expeditionary Units located around the world with one in Okinawa, Japan, and three on each continental coast of the United States.
In the past, MEUs were referred to as Marine Amphibious Units due to their sea-based capability alongside a naval amphibious force. In 1988 “Amphibious” was replaced with “Expeditionary” to reflect the Marine Corps' changing role in national defense and theater security.