MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The unmistakable sound of an AK-47 7.62mm round echoed through the compound. Marines lined the walls, prepared to enter the next portion of the compound. As they entered, Marines fired their weapons as an Afghan rounded a corner and pointed an AK-47 at them.
The loud popping of the Marines’ blanks left the role-player lying on the ground, simulating an enemy casualty.
Marines with Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a mechanized raid exercise at Forward Operation Base Hawk aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 1, 2011.
The raid combined different assets available within a MEU, such as amphibious assault vehicles, tanks and air support.
“Working with all the assets is extremely important to them,” said Sgt. Andrew L. Rouse, an amphibious raids branch instructor with Special Operations Training Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force. “Doing these large-scale raids and getting everyone involved helps teach, down to the lowest man, how to employ all the assets in the MEU.”
The Marines staged inside of the AAVs near Onslow Beach to simulate a beach landing from amphibious shipping.
M1A1 Abrams tanks entered the fictional insurgent training camp first and provided security as AAVs stopped in the forest nearby.
Afghan role-players and Marine role-players fired AK-47s filled with blanks, rocket propelled grenades that fired a bottle-rocket type explosive and hidden explosives to simulate improvised explosive devices and conducted simulated mortar attacks.
“The effects and role-players add a lot of realism,” said Jim Weaver, the director of quality for Defense Training Systems, the company that hires role-players and handles the special effects. “The sound of an AK-47 is pretty nasty.”
All of this combined into an eruption of sound and commotion as the Marines breached the first gate and entered the insurgent training camp.
The Marines moved through the maze of buildings and cleared the compound room-by-room. Prior to assaulting the objective, Echo Company rehearsed using satellite images to familiarize themselves with the layout of the area.
“This showed us that, yes, we can do rehearsals on ship,” said Sgt. Lincoln D. Hughes, a squad leader and Seneca, S.C., native with Echo Company. “We can go and execute on an objective that we’ve never seen.”
Two MV-22B Ospreys from Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced) landed near FOB Hawk to simulate a tactical evacuation of an injured Marine and role-player.
Once they secured FOB Hawk, the Marines began looking for any useful intelligence in a process known as tactical site exploitation.
The information gathered affects their training in the months to come. The company is in the first stage of an in-depth scenario spanning across their pre-deployment training that will also affect the next MEU to conduct the training.
The Special Operations Training Group created a string of hypothetical countries, known as the treasure coast, located along the U.S. East Coast and rife with problems reflecting the current world situation.
“The scenario is very good. It helps with tactical site exploitation,” said 1st Lt. Samuel E. Moore, a platoon commander, with Echo Company, and a Newport, R.I., native. “It shows the importance of everything the Marines find and keeps them in the mind set of everything matters.”
The unique, large-scale scenario offers more in-depth training, which prepares the Marines for their upcoming deployment later this year.
“The Marines are doing really great things,” said Capt. Brandon J. Gorman, the Echo Co. commanding officer and Charlotte, N.C., native. “The scenario is creating a training environment that the Marines can apply across the world.”
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 complex exercises designed to train and test the MEU's ability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task Force.
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 the Command Element.
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 in a hostile or crisis environment. While deployed, each MEU also incorporates two KC-130 aircraft available to support the unit's operations abroad.