MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The dark of night, roaring winds and crashing waves of Onslow Beach served as the perfect cover for reconnaissance Marines training to conduct amphibious clandestine operations Aug. 17.
The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Force Reconnaissance Platoon conducted dive operations Aug. 14-17, to maintain their skills and prepare for their upcoming deployment.
During the training, the Marines rode about 1,500 to 2,000 meters away from the shore on a rubber reconnaissance craft, also known as a Zodiac. They dived off the Zodiac and swam while submerged 10 to 25 feet underwater. The Marines stealthy inserted onto the beach and conducted a patrol to gather information, before finally reinserting into the water and swimming back to their Zodiac.
"We want them to get onto the beach without anybody ever knowing they're there," said Capt. Patrick Madden, the platoon commander. "Subsurface infiltration is one of the key ways to do it."
Dive operations are fraught with peril. In the water reconnaissance Marines face a number of challenges both encumbering and dangerous. During a dive a Marine could suffer from decompression sickness, an affliction sometimes caused from diving that could result in unconsciousness, vertigo, or death. The Marines may also face powerful currents that could impact their operations.
Or worse, if the Marines are spotted by a hostile enemy force the results could be disastrous.
The training served as a way for the Marines to reaffirm confidence in their abilities and equipment to overcome those challenges.
"We are going to hit something that's an unknown," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Harper, a reconnaissance Marine. "That's why we continue to train, push the envelope toward making the training a little more difficult, and a little more realistic."
Reconnaissance Marines conduct dive operations as a means of insertion and extraction into areas for a number of different missions such as: information gathering and ensuring the safety of a location in advance of the main force. The training took place to maintain the Marines' skills in conducting the types of clandestine missions they may carry out with the 24th MEU.
"We go to an area that's not secure and we'll be the first force to secure that beach," Harper said. "We give the commander a better understanding of what's going on in that area, so they can prepare for a beach landing."