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Photo Information

Marines with 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepare to clear a room, July 9, 2012, during a vertical assault training operation at Landing Zone Gerber in Kuwait. The 24th MEU is deployed with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Photo by Sgt. Richard Blumenstein

US Marines, Army link up for vertical assault training in Kuwait

15 Jul 2012 | Sgt. Richard Blumenstein 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit spent July 9, 10 and 15 conducting vertical assault training operations at Landing Zone Gerber with the help of Army Black Hawk helicopter pilots. The training took place to give Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th MEU, more experience assaulting objectives via helicopters while simultaneously allowing them to cross train with the Army.

This training was a unique way for Marines to try something new. The Black Hawk is not in the Marine Corps inventory so the training tested the Marines’ ability to adapt and overcome.

“Being on a MEU, we have to be a quick reaction force, we have to be ready at all times,” said 1st Lt. Thomas Flinn, a Glendale, Ariz., native and platoon commander for 1st Platoon, Alpha Company. “Using the Black Hawks is new for us, giving the Marines a greater ability at being versatile and conducting assaults with different platforms.”

The company serves as the 24th MEU’s mechanized raid force, which means their primary responsibility centers on conducting operations via Assault Amphibious Vehicles, large tank-like tactical vehicles able to move from ship to shore. In light of that fact, the Marine’s pre-deployment training centered upon using AAVs.

Regardless of their means of transportation, all Marine infantry companies train to conduct operations on the ground the same way, Flinn said.  

“Just because we are designated as the mechanized platform doesn’t mean that we are bound to that platform,” Flinn said. “We will use whatever assets we have, whatever assets that will get us from ship to shore.”

A different kind of Alpha Company was also involved in the training. Army soldiers with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, a contingency force for Task Force Liberty, flew the helicopters in the training. The Minnesota National Guard unit’s daily operations generally consist of transporting senior leadership and VIPs, said Army Capt. Shannon Gregory, the company’s commanding officer.

The training allowed the Black Hawk pilots to work with Marines and refresh their skills in air assault.

“The significance is it keeps my unit, which is an air assault unit, in the bread and butter of what we do,” Gregory said. “Our bread and butter is air assault operations, the deliberate movement of troops from one place to another to seize key terrain.”

The training was also unique for the Marines because UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are not a Marine aircraft.

“It’s very likely Marines could conduct missions on Army helicopters, it has been done before in places like Iraq and Afghanistan,” Gregory said. “We want to expose the Marines to working with Army helicopters and to feel comfortable with them.”

Both Alpha companies experienced new things. The Alpha Company Marines executed their warrior skills from a new platform while the Alpha Company soldiers had a chance to vary their flight training.

The 24th MEU is currently in Kuwait conducting a variety of sustainment training operations as they perform theater security cooperation in the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet area of responsibility.