U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY -- Like pawns in a game of chess, Marines of Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) move out front to make contact with the enemy and set them up for casualties.
Staff Sgt. Larry S. Rossignol, platoon sergeant, LAR Platoon addressed the mission of his platoon. "Basically what we do for the battalion is we are the advance guard. We go out about five or six kilometers in front of the MEU then what we do is just gather information," said Rossignol.
"We look for the enemy's advanced guard and radio back to the MEU commander... then he formulates his plan for attack. It gives him space and time to maneuver his forces," said Rossignol.
"We do route recons, zone recons, area recons... our job is to gain and maintain contact with the enemy. We maintain contact so the MEU commander knows where the enemy is, what kinds of weapons he's got, how many bodies he's got --basically a "SALUTE" report-- then the MEU commander, based on LAR's intel, weighs his options and formulates his plan," continued Rossignol.
The acronym SALUTE stands for the Size, Activity, Location, Unit, Time and Equipment, key information to report when reporting on enemy personnel.
"We patrol in the LAVs the same way units patrol on foot," said Rossignol. "We use the same formations, and if comm is down, we use the same hand signals. Sometimes we use the hand signals even when comm. is up," Rossignol added.
The LAV, LAR Platoon's mode of transportation and primary means of warfighting, is an eight wheeled Light Armored Vehicle made for fording streams, rivers and lakes. The vehicle is capable of doing 70 miles-per-hour on land and seven nautical miles-per-hour in the water.
"We have six LAV 25s, Light Armored Vehicles armed with a 25 mm Bushmaster chain gun, and one LAV L, which is a Light Armored Vehicle Logistics variant which carries all of my mechanics in it," said Rossignol.
In addition to the 25 mm chain gun the LAV is also equipped with thermal sights, one coaxially mounted M-240G machine gun, an M-240E1 machine gun mounted on top of the turret and two VRC-92 radios.
The vehicle transports up to six Marines; its crewmen, which consists of a driver, gunner, and a vehicle commander and a three-man scout team which consists of a team leader, Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) gunner, and a rifleman.
Sgt. Orlando Perez, team leader, LAR Plt. spoke about the scout teams. "We provide security for the vehicle if the vehicles are parked. Each vehicle has (its) own scouts. We actually provide security for the vehicles mainly while parked (but) we also provide visual security, observing the sky for attacks from the air," said Perez.
"We put the vehicles together and the scout teams from each vehicle go out in separate ways, combining their efforts to protect the vehicles all together. When the vehicles are parked it depends on the mission. We set up close to the vehicles when we're in a 'screen line'," Perez added.
"In a 'screen line' there is an area behind you that you don't want anyone to pass through, or you want to protect," Perez explained.
"We also do route recons to find routes that the LAVs can pass through, and also find routes for the whole MEU to pass through, like if (trucks) have to bring in supplies, or if there is a bridge out, or a river they want to cross," Perez said.
Perez spoke of some of the weapons and equipment carried by the scout team. "The team leader carries the M203 grenade launcher, (the) SAW gunner carries the SAW, (the) rifleman carries an AT4 or a SMAW. The M203 is a 40mm grenade launcher. I carry... HE (High Explosive grenades), Smoke (grenades and) Parachute-flares. The SAW is basically for suppressing fire. The AT4 is a one-time-use. You can keep feeding rockets into the SMAW," said Perez
The SMAW is a Squad Fired Multi-purpose Assault Weapon. The AT4 is an anti-tank weapon. The rifleman and the team leader also carry night vision goggles.
"The scouts have done training in various different things from reconnaissance to urban warfare, raids (and) non-combatant evacuation operations," Perez added.
Scouts training in non-combatant evacuation operations may not fit the main mission profile of LAR Plt., however, as Staff Sgt. Rossignol points out, "we do all kinds of missions for the MEU commander... We can also be assigned to raids, riot control, anything," said Rossignol.
Perez spoke of what it's like to ride in an LAV. "Riding in the back of an LAV is crowded, a lot of times you don't know where you are, you're not the driver or the vehicle commander so you don't get to see where you're going. Until you get out of the vehicle, you almost feel helpless because your life is in the hands of the driver and Marines that control the vehicle," said Perez.
While riding in an LAV may not be the most enjoyable experience, time spent together training tends to have collateral benefits. "I've been in the Marine Corps for almost four years and I've never been in a platoon that is as close as this one has become," said Perez.