CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- As the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's departure draws nearer, the MEU's Ground Combat Element -- Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Bn., 2nd Marines -- is one step closer to being ready to deploy after completing the Helicopter Raid Course April 16.The weeklong course, conducted by II Marine Expeditionary Force's Special Operations Training Group, afforded the Marines the opportunity to hone skills needed to conduct day and night raids by helicopter."It gave us a chance to validate our current [standard operating procedures], as well as make any adjustments ... based on our lessons learned," said Capt. Billy Ray Moore, Newcastle, Ind., native and commanding officer of Alpha Co.Along with working out standard operating procedures, Alpha Co., also had the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with Marines from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 (HMM-263), the MEU's Aviation Combat Element, who provided the helicopters for the raids."HMM-263 is a truly professional organization," said Moore. "I'm confident that the week of planning and execution will pay big dividends for our future deployment. They are classified as hard working, dedicated and team players in my book. The Marines from Alpha Co., were impressed from the start of the week."Other attachments were also integrated with the infantrymen to make the raid package complete. Marines from the MEU's Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team, Human Exploitation Team (HET), Combat Camera unit, Low-Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) unit, and the BLT's Surveillance Target and Acquisition (STA) team brought their expertise to the table and aided in making each mission a success."It was a tremendous benefit to have the integrated training with our attachments," said Moore. "Not only do they bring special skills to the fight, it was an excellent opportunity to integrate them with our company for the week."We worked hard to solidify our [standard operating procedures] based on their depth of knowledge. The Marines from HET, EOD, Combat Camera, LAAD and STA we worked with this week were professionals and force multipliers."While working out procedures and integrating new units and attachments were important during the course, the missions still needed to be completed and the Marines of Alpha showed they were more than capable of doing this."The training went extremely well for all the Marines, from the most junior Marine to the company staff," said Moore. The [noncommissioned officers] proved yet again that small unit leadership is a key to our success."We received feedback from the staff at [Special Operations Training Group] that our Marines were exceptionally aware of their surroundings during raid execution," added Moore. "Their ability to communicate with each other and operate as a team continued to improve as the week progressed. I'm excited about the progress of the company and the level we can attain as we continue through the workup."Moore felt that one highlight of the training was the night raid conducted April 15 on a building in combat town. "Although there was friction induced, the company worked through it and successfully accomplished a difficult task at night," said Moore. "That proves that we own the night with our capabilities."After conducting three different raids on various targets throughout Camp Lejeune, the Marines from Alpha are more prepared to conduct helicopter raids during the upcoming deployment."This course no doubt helped prepare our Marines for the future deployment," said Moore. "Any opportunity to integrate all of the elements that came together this weeks is a plus."