MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- During the Revolutionary War, Continental Marines raided the British rum supply in the Bahamas: their first amphibious operation. A century-and-a-half later, they stormed the bloody beaches of Iwo Jima and raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi in one of the most iconic images in U.S. history. They turned the tide in Korea, landing at Inchon in 1950 at a time when many thought amphibious operations were too difficult and a thing of the past. In Vietnam, they embraced new technology and used helicopters to conduct raids into Vietnam, and in 1983 the Marines used amphibious vehicles and helicopters to land at Grenada. To this day, the Marine Corps continues to pride itself in its ability to raid and assault enemy lands from the ground, air, and sea.
During the month of June, Marines and sailors with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a series of raid packages throughout the training areas at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in preparation for their deployment at the end of the year. The training, which consisted of simulated mechanized, vertical assault, and motorized raids, was based around the unit’s ground combat force from Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, with substantial support from the aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 (Reinforced).
A raid is an operational warfare mission which has an explicit purpose, not generally intended to capture and hold terrain, but instead to quickly withdraw to a previous defended position prior to enemy forces being able to react in a coordinated fashion or counter-attack.
Mechanized Raid Course
The simulated scenario was simple—enemy insurgents had seized a town. They hunkered down, waiting to find out if American forces would respond. Over the horizon, Kilo Company Marines and sailors sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the back of amphibious assault vehicles, waiting patiently as the tracked vehicles swam onto the shore and through the forest. Then the back door dropped and the Marines rushed out and began their raid on foot.
“Coming in on the AAVs provided us with mechanized mobility—shock, speed, and firepower,” said Capt. Bryceson Tenold, the commanding officer of Kilo Company. “Using AAVs… allowed us to bring all three elements in simultaneously to ambush and capture the enemy.”
The Special Operations Training Group, a group charged with evaluating the Marines, challenged the service members by ensuring they were assaulting a thinking enemy and not just conducting a simple mission.
“We were faced with a number of different problem sets and going into the raids we never knew what we would face, which is just the way it would be on a deployment. We only had a general idea of the obstacles, which forced creativity and flexibility within our Marines,” said Tenold, a Spokane, Washington native.
With support from M1A1 Abrams tankers, combat engineers, intelligence Marines, military policemen and more, the missions were sure to be successful.
“Kilo Company, and the mechanized force altogether, is one of the most aggressive groups of warfighters I have ever had the privilege to lead,” said Tenold. “They want victory, they seek battle and excellence. I have no doubt they will continue to do this and be a lethal fighting force if needed while with the 24th MEU.”
Vertical Assault Raid Course
The notional enemy within the town remained unaware as an entire company of Marines approached from the sky. Before the enemy could react, Marines and Sailors from Lima Company had already landed and were moving with speed into a nearby field to quickly complete the mission and destroy the threat.
An air assault is an undertaking of ground-based military forces by vertical take-off and landing aircraft, such as the MV-22B Osprey or CH-53E Super Stallion, to seize and grasp key terrain which has not been fully secured and directly engage enemy forces. Due to load restrictions of helicopters, air assault forces are usually light infantry, which enables assaulting forces to combine air mobility with a definite degree of ground mechanization.
“The vertical assault raid provides us with a great capability to come off a ship and travel by air to an objective potentially far inside enemy territory,” said Capt. Mark M. Goebel, the commanding officer of Lima Co., BLT 3/6, 24th MEU. “It enables us to be swift to an objective; when we get on the deck, the Marines are moving with a purpose whether it’s a weapons cache or clearing a couple of buildings then following a planned withdrawal.”
Marines and sailors responded to simulated explosions and enemy contact while moving swiftly through assigned missions as they were evaluated by SOTG.
“The SOTG staff is a very experienced staff,” said Goebel, a Moreno Valley, California, native. “I really enjoyed their approach—the way they provided that level of expertise to shape our standard operating procedures and made recommendations based on what they have seen work in the past.”
After the imminent threat was clear and the compound was secure, the Marines and Sailors withdrew from the town with support from VMM-365 (Rein).
“The Marines and sailors performed very well. This was my first field operation with the company,” said Goebel. “It was a great opportunity to see them perform in an entire full mission profile from start to finish and it gave me a good observation on where the company stands. Now we can plan for future training and work on the areas we need to work on.”
Motorized Raid Course
“A motorized raid is an element that can move in and exploit an objective quickly using a lot of fire power from vehicles including Humvees and Light Armored Vehicles, along with boots on the ground that can quickly get out and cover a wide variety of missions.”
Said Sgt. Chad Wooten, a section leader with Combined Anti-Armor Team 1, Weapons Co., BLT 3/6, 24th MEU.
As a 24th MEU BLT asset, CAAT teams are designed to push ahead of the battalion and create blockades to isolate enemy threats and control the flow of battle. The training centered on all the details involved with conducting raids, including military operations in urban terrain, understanding the roles and tasks of the company’s platoons, and the employment of the MEU’s assets to ensure mission readiness.
“If you look at our area of responsibility for our deployment with the 24th MEU, we are looking at a whole different array and variety of potential mission sets,” said Wooten, a Dallas native. “So when I look at the CAAT and light armored reconnaissance packages, whether it is light, medium or heavy, we are ready for most things the MEU commander can task us with.”
The light package allows them to use the least amount of vehicles possible and people on the ground while the heavy package can send upwards of 30 light armored vehicles and eight or more CAAT vehicles. The medium package lies somewhere between the other packages, explained Wooten.
“You have to be able to flex and go from humanitarian mission, to non-combatant mission, to kicking in doors and sending rounds down range in the flip of a second. Since day one, the Marines really showed an aptitude to pick up that mindset, put it down, and then immediately pick it back up,” said Wooten. “I look forward to future actions using the lessons we have learned this week.”
The Marines and sailors with BLT 3/6 completed its raid packages in preparation of the 24th MEU’s upcoming deployment. It was also an opportunity for VMM-365 (Rein) to train with the BLT.
Over the years, the 24th MEU has responded to various scenarios ranging from full-scale combat operations to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Raid packages, along with a variety of other pre-deployment training exercises, will prepare the roughly 2,500 Marines and Sailors for any mission the commander may ask of them.