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Photo Information

Staff Sgt. Zachary Burghart, a Maritime Raid Force team leader, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, verifies scope settings on an M107 .50 cal Special Application Scoped Rifle, or SASR, during bilateral live-fire training with members of the Jordanian 77th Marine Reconnaissance Battalion here, May 8, 2012. The bilateral training is part of Exercise Eager Lion 12, taking place throughout the month of May and designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships of over 19 participating partner nations. This is the second major exercise for the 24th MEU who, along with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, is currently deployed as a theater security and crisis response force.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Fisher

24th MEU Maritime Raid Force brings Special Operations capabilities to the fight

7 Jun 2012 | Staff Sgt. Robert Fisher 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, composed largely of its Force Reconnaissance Platoon, went straight to work showing off their capabilities upon landing in the Jordanian desert in preparation for Exercise Eager Lion 12, May 7.

The MRF took part in an international military warrior competition at Jordan’s King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center and immediately crossed the country to meet with members of the Jordanian 77th Marine Reconnaissance Battalion. They spent the following days sharing experiences and refining each other’s skills.

Eager Lion 12 is an international training exercise with more than 19 countries and approximately 11,000 participants designed to promote cooperation and military-to-military relationships among participating forces. The exercise scenario is intended to portray realistic, modern-day security challenges.

Working with the Jordanians has allowed the MRF to return to the basics of shooting while also allowing them the opportunity to refine their knowledge of special operations mission capabilities through teaching.

The Marines taught classes on their sniper rifles: the M40A5, M110 semi-automatic sniper system, and M107 .50 cal. Special Application Scoped Rifle, or SASR. Further scheduled training includes rappelling, fast roping, and ship takedown drills.

Marines who become part of the reconnaissance community must undergo rigorous training and screening before becoming Force Reconnaissance. Once part of a unit, they attend a myriad of different schools in order to learn the abilities necessary for the unit to be self-sufficient.

This added expertise allows a Force Reconnaissance platoon to be capable of several special missions: ship takedowns, long-term reconnaissance, battlefield shaping, counterintelligence and quick reaction, small-scale raids among others.

“We train with special operations partners in joint training missions to facilitate possible missions in the future,” said Capt. Patrick R. Madden, the 24th MEU’s MRF commander.

But the MRF is much more than just Force Reconnaissance Marines. It relies on several attached assets to complement its diverse skill sets.

“Intelligence personnel have been integrated into the unit,” said Madden. “They can immediately detain and process a detainee on site without having to send them somewhere else. Trained personnel can also provide a full spectrum of signal intelligence detection and counter detection.”

These additional assets include Marines from human intelligence, signal intelligence, fire support control, and explosive ordnance disposal.

“We have many of the same assets internal to a special operations unit,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Burghart, an MRF team leader. “We do a lot of the same special missions that Special Forces do, but we do it specifically for the task force commander or the MEU commander.”

This attachment to a larger unit, like the 24th MEU, allows the Marines the ability to take the initiative in a situation while still having a much larger force backing them.

“By having a smaller force, there are many advantages,” said Burghart. “We can maintain the initiative longer when we move in and get on top of a unit; we have a smaller footprint ashore, we are more flexible when the mission changes, we require fewer capabilities to move ashore, and we provide a more precise outcome.”

All these advantages allow the MRF to move quickly ashore, accomplish the mission with minimal delay, and adapt as the mission changes.

“You don’t get mired down in the situation, which allows us to be more efficient,” said Madden.

But there are disadvantages with a parent unit relying solely on the MRF. While a lighter load allows them to move quickly, they need resupplies for time-extended missions. MEU assets allow the Marines to sustain indefinitely and also provide a quick reaction force should the MRF need more fire in a fight.

“Everybody has their part and we enable the MEU a special mission operability,” said Madden. “With EOD or human intelligence or any the assets internal to our platoon, we adapt easily to changes in a mission.”

The ability to gather, process and react to new information grants the MRF a unique flexibility.

“We are a self-contained unit with all the organic elements needed to be self-sufficient and directly act upon any intelligence gathered in the field,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Lee Boujie, special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman. “There are so many skill sets in this unit, it’s ridiculous. The amount of knowledge, skills and abilities in this unit allows us to do more with less.”

The small unit’s abilities provide but one of the many components of the 24th MEU. But it’s these quick reaction special mission capabilities that set them apart and make them an essential and oftentimes first piece of the big picture.