News: BLT 3/8 galvanizes amphibious capabilities
Story by Lance Cpl. Santiago G. Colon Jr.
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, performed a battalion-wide advance force operation and amphibious assault exercise, July 22-26, which ended a three-week long Composite Training Unit Exercise.
The four-day assault was the last major ship-to-shore exercise before a Certification Exercise in August for the Camp Lejeune-based MEU. The BLT received logistical support from Combat Logistics Battalion 26 as well as air support from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (Rein).
The multi-faceted operation afforded the MEU an opportunity to practice multiple mission-essential tasks, including ship-to-shore operations, route reconnaissance, humanitarian aid and patrolling.
"This training operation was conducted in order to increase unit proficiency in accomplishing missions requiring combat personnel to seize, secure, or defend," said Cpl. Matthew Dymond, an infantry rifleman with BLT 3/8. "The unique nature of the MEU allows for a mobile striking force.to be employed at a moment's notice in areas where a ready garrison of forces does not exist.
"Training such as the Amphibious Assault exercise readies the ground combat element for a broad range of scenarios," he said.
An essential part of the exercise was integrated training with British Royal Marine Commandos who participated in Operation Auriga 2010 alongside U.S. Marines and sailors with 26th MEU and Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group.
"The British Royal Marines represent our close allies in the current War on Terror," Dymond said. He went on to stress the importance of bilateral training with UK forces. "Often times we find ourselves fighting side-by-side with our allies," he said.
Dymond added that conducting training operations with friendly foreign forces leads to improved communication and helps overcome cultural differences.
Within the scenario-driven training, the British Marine Commandos simulated taking control of an area recently devastated by natural disasters and insurgent activity. The British Marines provided humanitarian assistance while defending and protecting the simulated community. Marines from 26th MEU then conducted a Relief In Place, taking over operations ashore and allowing 3 Commando Brigade to conduct an amphibious withdraw back to UK ships in order to perform follow-on relief missions within the scenario-based training.
While the UK commandos maintained security ashore, 26th MEU Marines supported the assault using air, sea and ground assets, including UH-1 Hueys, AH-1W Super Cobra Helicopters, CH-53E Super Stallion Helicopters, MV-22 Ospreys, Landing Craft Air Cushioned, Amphibious Assault Vehicles, Light-Armored Vehicles, tanks, and Humvees to get troops from the ships of Kearsarge ARG onto the beaches of Camp Lejeune.
"Engaging multiple units, with a broad range of weapon systems and capabilities, is especially important for preparing the command for their part," Dymond said. "Just as the individual Marine trains best with rounds in his weapon and targets to shoot, commanders train better with troops and assets in the field."
Once on land, the MEU operated over a large expanse of area to conduct reconnaissance, raids, humanitarian assistance and security. Once MEU Marines relieved the British Marines, they assisted in fighting off the simulated insurgency and working to get the fictional region back to normalcy.
"The British Marines facilitated our movement ashore and established a foothold for us," said Gunnery Sgt. Andrew Jones, platoon sergeant for Light Armored Reconnaissance platoon, Weapons Company, BLT 3/8. "We were able to pick up where they left off as they went back aboard their ship to continue their operations."
During the exercise, Marines from both countries conducted vehicle and weapons demonstrations for their counterparts. Marines from the MEU took a ride in British military vehicles and in return showcased their LAVs and tanks to their British comrades. This allowed service members from both countries to get to know each other a little better, said Jones.
The MEU is set to deploy in the fall after its Certification Exercise, the final event on its pre-deployment training list. The MEU will board the ships of Kearsarge ARG for their deployment.