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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

'Pride of the Pacific'

Camp Pendleton, CA
A RUT Above the Rest; 11th MEU MRF Conducts Urban Raid and Reconnaissance Training

By Lance Cpl. Devan K. Gowans | 10th Marine Regiment | July 28, 2016

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RUT is the first training exercise in the MEU’s deployment work-up cycle where the command element, air combat element, and MRF of the 11th MEU harnesses their collective capabilities during a scenario-based training exercise in field and urban environments.

One of the MRF’s core identities is that it’s a raid and reconnaissance force. During RUT the MRF had the opportunity to exercise that core capability and apply it within urban environments.

Throughout RUT, the MRF strengthened their skills as the MEU’s primary limited-scale raid force through situational training exercises or STX conducted in predominantly urban environments throughout the Southwestern United States.

"The complexity of operating in high-density urban areas with multiple-story buildings is a challenge for raid forces," said Col. Clay C. Tipton, commanding officer, 11th MEU. "RUT enables our Marines to meet that challenge head on, and leverage the appropriate level of combat power from the Marine Air-Ground Task Force to accomplish the mission."

These STX are scenarios that allow the MRF to employ its core capability by first clandestinely inserting onto a specified area, conducting reconnaissance and surveillance of the objective site. Once they gather enough intelligence, they’re able to pass to the MEU commander a detailed, real-time report of enemy presence and geography on the battlefield.

“Reconnaissance and surveillance is the backbone of what we do,” said Staff Sgt. Shawn Santo, communications chief with MRF, 11th MEU. “[R&S teams] go out and seek the information needed to conduct a raid prior to its execution. If we’re going after a high-value target, the R&S teams can positively identify that individual. They can also relay key locations, enemy disposition, enemy strength, and patterns of life. Without all of that information, a raid force is going in blind.”

Once the necessary battlefield intelligence collected by R&S teams is deemed sufficient by the MEU commander to execute the raid, the MRF assault element will insert onto the objective area by land, sea or air, conduct the raid, and extract all forces in a specified amount of time.

The raids conducted by the MRF during RUT began with STX 1, which took place in the mountainous regions of Southern California, and set the conditions that allowed the MRF to conduct R&S on a small village and suspected enemy compound, which resulted in a raid on the compound to neutralize a simulated terrorist training camp.

STX 2 consisted of R&S and a raid conducted on an industrial building in Reno, Nevada, and incorporated members of the Reno City Police Department SWAT team who acted as friendly members of a host nation security force.

Working bilaterally with the Reno SWAT team during the raid allowed the Marines to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures with a partner force and simulated operating in an urban environment alongside a foreign military unit.

According to Santo, learning to operate alongside a partner nation while deployed provides the MEU with additional military support during an operation, as well as a greater insight of the local area and populace.

These are conditions the MEU must be prepared to encounter while operating abroad. The realistic urban training aspect of the STXs gave MRF Marines the opportunity to work in austere, built-up environments, and an opportunity to conduct short and long-range raids.

“That has a lot of complexity to it and RUT sets us up for that success to hone in our skills that we have as a maritime raid force and to execute appropriately,” said Santo.

Following RUT, Marines with the 11th MEU will embark onto U.S. Navy ships belonging to the Makin Island Amphibious Readiness Group in July for Amphibious Squadron – MEU Integration, a two-week exercise coupling the Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU and Amphibious Squadron 5 for the first time during their pre-deployment training cycle.

The 11th MEU has three major training exercises left to complete, all of which are at sea, before shoving off on their Western Pacific 16-2 deployment later this year.
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