ABOARD THE USS PELELIU -- Marines from 3rd Platoon, C Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, found themselves in well-known territory Dec. 2. That night, the Marines conducted a mission that was all too familiar to them; the tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel.
The TRAP mission was part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit's pre-deployment training aboard the USS Peleliu. The training aboard the amphibious ship is comprised of a myriad of training missions designed to prepare the MEU and its subordinate elements for their upcoming deployment. The objective of this mission was to rescue three downed pilots who were stranded behind enemy lines.
The recovery of aircraft and personnel became one of 3rd platoon's specialties after having completed the Special Operations Training Group's TRAP course in September at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
"We have both old and new Marines in our platoon. Marines who deployed to Iraq and were part of the Fallujah offensive and Marines who came straight from the School of Infantry," said Lance Cpl. James C. Hassell, 3rd platoon team leader. Those who were deployed have done actual TRAP missions, so their experience runs deep. But training like this helps all the new Marines become more confident with their skills, said Hassell.
Although the platoon expected no surprises during this mission, the platoon still prepared for the worst. Like most Marines in the Corps, those in 3rd platoon are firm believers in Murphy's Law; anything that can go wrong will go wrong. So they checked and double checked their gear and weapons and went over the plan to ensure that every Marine knew what their role would be and to make sure they knew what to do in case things didn't go as planned.
Three CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters departed the ship and headed toward their intended landing zone. Upon their arrival, they immediately began to take fire.
Because of the excellent leadership in the platoon, the Marines did not flinch or hesitate.
Instead they exited the aircraft, took their positions and destroyed the hostile forces while the CH-46 retreated to relative safety in the sky.
Within minutes, 3rd platoon secured the area and rescued the pilots, but suffered some casualties from enemy fire. Once the area was secure, the CH-46s landed, the Marines jumped on the aircraft with the recovered personnel and casualties, and flew back to the ship.
"Overall the mission was a success," said 2nd Lt. Jason Bullis, 3rd platoon commander. "It definitely helped them hone their skills in conducting TRAP missions."
According to Bullis, the success of the mission was a direct result of the mentorship provided by experienced Marines.
Mentorship plays an important role in any Marine Corps unit. There is no other platoon that sets a better example than 3rd platoon, said Pfc. Charles T. Restifo, squad automatic weapon gunner.
"We have great leaders, from squad leaders on up, that will guide us to accomplish any missions that will come our way," said Restifo. "The platoon thrives on these missions. We know how important they are. We rescue and save the lives of fellow service members that are in dire need of help," said Restifo. "Although these are only mock missions, we're training like this is the real thing."