PACIFIC OCEAN --
Training to retake a hijacked seagoing vessel, maritime raiders boarded their floating objective miles from Southern California's San Clemente Island Aug. 14, while overhead, helicopters flew unseen snipers and heavy guns.
The raid force’s assault element – Marines and sailors serving with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit – launched from USS New Orleans on Navy rigid-hulled inflatable boats, executing counter-piracy and counter-terrorism tactics rehearsed days before – essentially visiting, boarding, searching and seizing an ocean vessel.
From USS Makin Island, the unit’s aviation combat element launched four of its skid-landing helicopters: a pair of AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and two UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters, one carrying scout snipers with high-powered rifles.
The Marines apprehended a small group of actors portraying terrorists-cum-pirates, seized small-arms weapons and returned the vessel to its owner.
The 11th MEU embarked the amphibious assault ship Makin Island and the amphibious transport dock New Orleans Aug. 10 in San Diego, beginning a 12-day exercise with the Navy's Amphibious Squadron 5. Having sailed from San Diego four days ago, this Navy and Marine Corps team began working together at sea for the first time since the unit formed a complete Marine air-ground task force in May.
The team has planned and conducted its first few training missions from the sea, with more scheduled in the coming days, including an operation extending as far inland as Yuma, Ariz.