CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Three amphibian assault vehicles approach an enemy site and lay down heavy fire on an enemy target with their machine guns. Suddenly the back hatch of each AAV drops and Marines come racing out from behind the vehicle to lay down additional firepower. They eventually overrun the enemy, who was just "schooled" in a raid performed the mechanized way.
Marines with Company B, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, joined forces with the BLT's AAV platoon during a mechanized raid course at Fire Base Gloria here, Jan. 19 to 23.
The course, conducted by instructors from I Marine Expeditionary Force's Special Operations Training Group, started by explaining the importance of mechanized raids. In addition, the course taught various classes regarding enemy prisoner of war handling, the Geneva Convention and the conduct of casualty collection points.
Staff Sgt. Stuart D. Glass, raid instructor, SOTG, emphasized the importance of knowing and understanding each team member’s role during a raid.
“If the Marine next to you is injured during a raid and he’s a combat engineer, the raid still goes on,” he said. “Someone must be able to fill their role (as an engineer) and conduct the breach.”
According to Cpl. Joshua Morris, squad leader, 2nd platoon, Company B, BLT 1/4, 11th MEU, although there are a lot of new Marines within the company, the many hours spent in the classroom and rehearsing mechanized raid procedures will allow the mechanized raid team to succeed in a real life situation.
“I think it was a good course, especially for the newcomers, because a lot of information got dumped on us,” he said.
Even for Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, the data passed may prove effective in future raids because the training exercises are more realistic than other raids they’ve performed, Morris added.
“I’ve done raids before, and a lot of the things we learned (from the course) would have been very useful then,” he said. “The raids here (at Camp Pendleton) aren’t like normal raids because there are booby traps all over the raid site.”
Gunnery Sgt. Shaun Haynes, company gunnery sergeant, Company B, BLT 1/4, 11th MEU, said that even with the busy training schedule the Marines have during this training cycle, the new Marines are starting to fit right in when it comes to performing missions.
“OIF veterans are doing a good job getting the new Marines spun up on how we do things,” he said.
According to Haynes, having new Marines and a high operational tempo aren’t the only obstacles the members of the mechanized raid team must overcome. In addition, Marines from the AAV platoon and infantry company aren't used to working together.
“For most of the Marines it’s their first time to the field as a mechanized company,” Haynes said. “Errors are going to be made. However, most of the mistakes came from a lack of time spent by both the track (Marines) and infantry (Marines) in learning each other’s standard operation procedures.”
Nevertheless, within one day, Haynes said they were able to work out the bugs.
Despite the fact that AAVs are loud and can’t transit through certain terrain, Haynes emphasized that they provide several benefits to infantry Marines that far outweigh their loud engines.
“(AAVs) have extra weapons to help overwhelm the enemy and we provide movement from one place to the next,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph C. Rice, 2nd section leader, AAV platoon, BLT 1/4, 11th MEU. “We also provide armored protection for the Marines we’re transporting.”
In the same light, infantry Marines provide additional safety and protection for the vehicles by increasing the amount of eyes on an objective, he added.
However, the AAV platoon’s mission remains the same, according to Rice.
“Our main mission is to get infantry Marines from ship to shore as fast as possible,” he said.
Throughout the week, AAVs transported Marines through rugged and mountainous terrain to reach distant objectives. Once there, infantry Marines ran up steep hills and breached barbed wire to get inside simulated enemy compounds. The purpose of their missions ranged from gathering intelligence to capturing enemy prisoners of war.
Marines were graded on the final exercise, which resembled a scene out of the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” B Company Marines had to fight their way into an enemy camp, make their way through bunkers, and face armed and dangerous enemies, a role played by Marines of Company C, BLT 1/4.
In addition, the area was covered in booby traps and trip wires. Instructors designated Marine casualties depending on their location when fired on or caught by a trap.
According to 2nd Lt. Michael A. Cap, platoon commander, Company B, BLT 1/4, the raid went fairly well, even with a varied experience level among the new Marines and the ones who went to Iraq.
"Their performance as a whole definitely shows that information from the veterans has been filtering down to the newcomers,” he stated. “The leaders within the various platoons are undoubtedly doing their jobs.”