Photo Information

A machine gunner with Company E, Battalion Landing Team 2/4, fires an M-249 squad automatic weapon during a heliborne raid here Aug. 2. The long-range helicopter raid was the last training evolution the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted during its second at-sea training period. The MEU has one exercise left before deploying later this year.

Photo by Sgt. Scott Biscuiti

Raid Force Easy, air power round out exercise with combined arms

2 Aug 2009 | Sgt. Scott Biscuiti 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Flames erupted from the business ends of 60 mm mortars as machine- gun teams let loose volley after volley from a hilltop overlooking a raid site. Overhead, aircraft with 500-pound bombs and heavy machine guns destroyed targets. 

The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s air and ground combat elements converged on a mock enemy camp during a long-range heliborne raid at the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range here Aug. 2. The raid signaled the end of the MEU’s second training exercise conducting missions from the sea before it deploys to the Western Pacific Ocean.

“The raid was the biggest combined exercise we’ve done during the at-sea periods,” said Cpl. Michael Ayup, the mortar section leader with Company E, Battalion Landing Team 2/4.

Seconds after CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters touched down in the Yuma desert, Company E Marines, calling themselves Raid Force Easy, ran into the darkness hefting machine guns and mortars.As the mortarmen prepped high-explosive rounds, machine-gun teams atop a rock-covered hill loaded ammunition.

Bullets and mortars from the Marine positions hit their marks, striking targets on distant hills.

Then the air show began.

From an elevated position, a forward air controller called in strikes from AV-8B Harriers and machine gun fire from helicopters.

“The communication was key,” said Ayup, a Los Angeles native. “We would fire and shut off fires so the helicopters could come through, then resume.”

Company commander Capt. Chris Stark said the cohesion between his company and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (Reinforced), the MEU’s air combat element, is the best it’s been since they started training, and his men conducted “the best raid we’ve done all workup.”

MEU operations officer Lt. Col. Robert Rice said during these deployment workups the unit works through complexities with Navy counterparts to facilitate live-fire shoots and raids. He said the latest at-sea exercise challenged the MEU with different mission profiles focused on night operations.

The next workup for the MEU is a certification exercise, or CertEx, which Rice said is the opportunity for the unit to show its capabilities to deploy.

“Last night we pretty much baked the cake,” Ayup said. “During CertEx, we are going to put the icing on it before we go on deployment.”

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
Commanding Officer

Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

Read Biography

Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
Executive Officer

LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

Read Biography

Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarr enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Read Biography