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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

'Pride of the Pacific'

Camp Pendleton, CA
BLT 1/4: The MEU's sledgehammer

By Lance Cpl. Devan Gowans | 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit | September 23, 2016

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AT Sea, Pacific Ocean -- AT SEA, Pacific Ocean - With a storied history of land and sea campaigns across the globe, and a unit service record spanning the course of a century, Marines and Sailors with 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, an infantry battalion, dubbed the “China Marines,” continues to earn their mantra of doing “Whatever It Takes” to accomplish the mission at-hand.

Assuming the role of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Battalion Landing Team, 1/4 Marines are currently preparing for their Western Pacific 16-2 deployment to the Pacific and Central Commands’ areas of operation.
 
The BLT is a reinforced infantry battalion, which is the Ground Combat Element of the MEU’s amphibious Marine Air-Ground Task Force. It mainly consists of three rifle companies, along with artillery, light-armored reconnaissance, assault amphibian, and combat engineer attachments. These elements are readily available to be called upon by the MEU commander to harness and project ground-based combat power from ship-to-shore when the situation calls for it.

“Our mission is to get Marines in very quickly and assault the enemy by force,” said Cpl. Nathaniel Votruba, a rifleman, Company C, BLT 1/4. “We’re meant to show the enemy they are not untouchable.”
 
As part of the 11th MEU’s pre-deployment training (PTP) cycle, 1/4 Marines and Sailors have been working diligently  to hone their operational tactics by taking part in raid training packages offered by the Expeditionary Operations Training Group, consisting of company-sized raids on specified objectives during both day and night scenarios.

“Our training during the pre-deployment work-up is where we really learn the fundamentals of a how to execute a raid,” said 1st Lt. Anthony Charles Grandprey, weapons platoon commander, Company C, BLT 1/4.

Following the raid package, the small unit leaders of 1/4 took part in the Raid Leaders Course, also offered by EOTG, which provided them with a basic understanding of, and practical application in room-clearing and military operations on urban terrain.

“We conducted several white-space training exercises, our crawl phase, where the Marines in the battalion were able to gain valuable knowledge on how to conduct a raid.” said Grandprey. “As we progress toward deployment, we will enter our walk-run phase with our raid training in respect to the MEU training plan.”

The 11th MEU recently participated in Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) – MEU Integration (PMINT), the fourth major exercise in the training cycle, which took place at-sea off the coast of Southern California, July 11-22, aboard the Navy shipping of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group.

Thus far, the PTP has taken the MEU from the shores of Camp Pendleton, California, to the desert training areas of Marine Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, and from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, to the sea where BLT 1/4 further refined their methods of conducting company-sized raids from ship to shore, while also learning how to effectively and properly integrate all of their reinforced assets.

PMINT stands as the first exercise in which the MEU and PHIBRON were able to come together and learn how to develop a better working relationship prior to their deployment.

“Once we were underway, the beginning of PMINT consisted largely of familiarization training, such as rehearsals of shipboard procedures, and learning how to navigate the ship,” said Lt. Col. John Gianopoulos, operations officer with the 11th MEU. “We then transitioned to full-mission profiles, which we would plan and execute from the ship.”

One mission that took place during PMINT, conducted by BLT 1/4, was a helicopter raid launched from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship (LHD 8) USS Makin Island supported by Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), the MEU’s Aviation Combat Element, and was executed on a specified target site at MCB Camp Pendleton, July 17, 2016. Four MV-22 Ospreys and two CH-53 Super Stallions moved more than 100 Marines from Company C, while AH-1Z Cobras and UH-1Z Hueys provided close-air support. 

Another mission conducted by the BLT incorporated its amphibious assault assets by launching amphibious assault vehicles from the well deck of the dock landing ship (LSD 45) USS Comstock, assaulting the shores of Camp Pendleton, July 20, 2016. The landing force then conducted an inland raid on a combat town.

The purpose of implementing the MEU’s air and amphibious assets into the BLT’s mission sets enhances their capability to strike an objective in support of any mission, be it a beachhead landing or an insertion onto mountainous terrain, impassible by ground vehicles.

The purpose of conducting such operations prior to deployment is to familiarize the Marines with the MEU’s core missions and supporting efforts they could execute if called upon by U.S. senior military leadership. All of 1/4’s refined and practiced mission sets will support the MEU’s forward amphibious presence while afloat in USPACOM and USCENTCOM.

The next step for the MEU and the BLT is to con

tinue fostering their working relationship with the ARG during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), which again takes place off the coast of Southern California, mid-August aboard Makin Island ARG ships, and is the final exercise before the 11th MEU’s certification period prior to their deployment in the fall of 2016.

“During COMPTUEX, we will take on harder mission and training objectives,” said Grandprey. “Our confidence in the BLT lies within our confidence in the Marines and their abilities, which will allow us to accomplish whatever task the MEU commander puts forth.”

Once the MEU and BLT successfully complete CERTEX, they will officially be certified in all of their core mission sets and will truly be ready to deploy in support of our nation’s defense.


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