PACIFIC OCEAN --
In a pitch-black, light-tight compartment, the eye’s guesswork is thrown off by a hanging diesel smell and an earsplitting drone. Ear plugs shield the noise and turn the hearing inward to amplify one’s every breath.
The darkness and deafness are solitary. But nobody’s alone in here. The contorted gridlock of knees and elbows jutting into one another assures that.
The Marines wait, crammed to their amphibious gills, nested in their light-armored vehicles, nested aboard air-cushioned landing craft, nested aboard USS Bonhomme Richard.
They wait for the turbines, fans and whatever wondrous parts that will lift and propel their 200-ton, cargo-filled hovercraft over the horizon from the blue ocean to their seashore objective miles away:
A fake downed pilot needs rescuing before a make-believe enemy gets him first.
To accomplish this and many more missions, Marines and sailors are putting their teamwork in motion.
A detachment from 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion conducted the tactical recovery of the simulated missing pilot July 2. The LAR detachment is part of Battalion Landing Team 2/4, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ground combat element.
Recovering aircraft and personnel is one of several special missions the MEU must know how to plan and execute before deploying its 2,200 Marines and sailors in September aboard USS Bonhomme Richard, USS Cleveland and USS Rushmore.
The MEU, part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, is conducting its first pre-deployment exercise at sea with its Navy counterpart, Amphibious Squadron 7. This Navy and Marine Corps team is testing interoperability before a deployment certification exercise later this summer.
The MEU and Amphibious Squadron 7 began working together in January to plan and execute conventional amphibious operations and selected maritime operations that may be necessary when deployed to the Western Pacific and other parts of the globe.
During this at-sea period, in addition to two tactical recoveries of aircraft and personnel, the MEU has conducted amphibious raids and a humanitarian assistance operation, with several more missions in store before the exercise wraps up July 10.