MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
What begins as a hum in the distance escalates into a roaring thunder as MV-22 Ospreys and CH-53 Super Stallions emerge from the horizon and race across the sky. In minutes, a multitude of helicopters touch down and Marines rush out from the aircraft, storming the landscape for a swift and precise attack on an enemy stronghold.
After completing the Special Operations Training Group Heliborne Company Raid Course Aug. 21, Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was transformed from a straight-legged rifle company to an air mobile assault force.
Charlie Company spent five days integrating with aerial assets from Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron – 162, the MEU’s air combat element, to form the 24th MEU’s helo raid force. The helicopter raid force provides ship to shore assault capabilities at almost any location in a timely manner.
SOTG instructors helped Marines perfect basic tactics, techniques, and procedures of heliborne raids. The unit rehearsed their methods at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility, and SOTG evaluated their performance during three company-sized raids throughout Camp Lejeune.
“Our goal, as a company, is to provide the MEU and the MEU commander a strong reliable asset that can do long range raids or anything which requires vertical lift,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas H. Schrobeck, executive officer, C Co., BLT 1/9, 24th MEU. “Anything that couldn’t be done with trucks, [tracked vehicles] or anything needed with helicopters, we need to be there and accomplish the mission.”
The course brought Charlie Company together for the first time to plan, prepare, and execute a raid as a unified company, one where each platoon played a pivotal role towards mission accomplishment.
“It’s a different dynamic from what the company did in Iraq (in 2008), where Marines were separated into police transition teams and smaller units,” said Schrobeck, a Warwick, N.Y. native. “Now we are working together as a 200 plus Marine force to accomplish one mission. There is much more unity of command and much more fulfillment working towards one final goal.”
SOTG instructors reinforced teamwork within the company by working with every Marine in the company, from the commanding officer to the junior enlisted rifleman and corpsman, developing skills needed to take on any mission at any place and return home.
“The [raid] package the MEU and SOTG put together has been a fantastic one and has been an excellent and invaluable learning source for the Marines,” said 2nd Lt. Patrick V. Turevon, platoon commander, 2nd platoon, C Co., BLT 1/9, 24th MEU.
SOTG gathered information from us instead of pushing it down, allowing Marines to develop their standard operating procedures and planning processes that worked for each platoon; it provided a third party critique that allowed Marines to grow and become more proficient in the raid process, said Turevon, a Rochester, N.Y. native.
SOTG introduced new tactics some Marines were eager to learn and hope to apply during their upcoming deployment. These included urban warfare, helicopter embarking, disembarking, and casualty evacuations.
“I got to see another part of what we (as infantrymen) can do,” said Lance Cpl. Jose Schofield, team leader, 2nd platoon, C Co., BLT 1/9, 24th MEU. “I got to see how we can apply our skills with helos, instead of trucks to get in and out of areas. It’s a whole another world; it was exciting flying in, getting dropped off instead of driving a truck [to do a raid].”
The Heliborne Company Raid Course was recently revamped, slimming from two weeks long to one. With much to learn and a steep learning curve, the Marines remained focused on one thing – the training.
“[This raid course] was the first one we’ve done in one week,” said Sgt. Justin L. Tygart, amphibious raid instructor, SOTG, II Marine Expeditionary Force. “The hours are longer and much more strenuous on the Marines with less down time. The course puts more of a real vibe on them as far as operation tempo.”
The more realistic the training seems, the more prepared Marines will become.
“It’s just so crucial to have that tough, realistic training,” said Schrobeck. “If we are going to use helicopters, we need to experience that rotor down-wash, the heat from the exhaust, the excessive volume, and all those realistic aspects these helicopters offer.”
Several Marines were able to ride in a helicopter for their first time. For almost all of the Marines, it was the first time they rode inside a MV-22 Osprey, which the 24th MEU will use for the first time when it deploys.
“This was [my] first time doing a raid with the Osprey,” said Schofield, a Hillsboro, Ore. native. “Once we got on the helo it took off real quick, which made me feel comfortable. If we were ever in a hot (dangerous) landing zone, we’ll be able to get out of there real fast.”
Marines became more comfortable saddling inside the aircrafts and executing raids by the end of the course. This combined with guidance they received from SOTG will allow the unit to continue forward with their training.
“The most critical aspect of this training is the Marines’ ability to take what we give them and continue building on it,” said Tygart, a Swansboro, N.C. native.
The course unified the Marines of Charlie Company, equipping them with capabilities that will take them from the sea to the shore and manifesting a “go hard or go home” appetite to complete their heliborne mission.
“The biggest thing I noticed in the Marines is their initiative and hunger,” said Turevon. “They want to go out there, [take on] these missions, and accomplish something. I think if Col. Petronzio (24th MEU commanding officer) threw something at us, these Marines will execute exceptionally well.”