15th MEU Conducts Vertical-Assault Training

15th MEU Conducts Vertical-Assault Training

U.S. Marines with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, boost a Marine over a wall during a vertical-assault raid course aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 29, 2014. The course teaches vertical assault techniques and the importance of working together as a cohesive unit during a raid. Photo by Sgt Emmanuel Ramos.

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Nov. 4, 2014) - After being briefed by their platoon commander, Cpl Jose W. Delgado gathered his Marines around a terrain model to go over his squad's mission. 

"There's nothing routine about this, gents," said Delgado, a squad leader with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. "We're the main effort on this. There's a lot of moving parts so try to keep up."

This was the scene as Marines with Lima Co., BLT 3/1, began preparations for a raid exercise during a week-long vertical-assault training course aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 31, 2014.

The course is designed to give Marines a solid understanding on how vertical-assault missions are conducted while deployed as the Helicopter Company with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

"This training makes us better," said Sgt Andrew McGinty, a squad leader with Lima Co., BLT 3/1, 15th MEU. "The instructors are throwing us real-life scenarios with buildings and key terrain that we may be encountering, with regards to what's going on in the world."

Students in the course first received lessons on the capabilities of the aircraft they could use in a vertical-assault operation. They also learned about overcoming hurdles, like improvised explosive devices and handling casualties, they may encounter when conducting a raid.

In these scenarios instructors preached that immediate actions make the difference between success and failure.

"Individual actions are huge," said McGinty, 27, from Cleveland. "Your key leaders can't be with you at all times, so in order for the mission to get accomplished you have to rely on the individual actions of all the Marines, down to the simple rifleman. The squad leader is going to be tasked out to do different things, as well as team leaders, so it really falls on the individual actions of the most junior Marines to make the right decision."

After receiving classes, platoon commanders were given their orders and platoon sergeants had a few hours to brief and prepare their Marines.

"This is the most crucial part of what we do. This is where it all starts," said Delgado, 21, from Shirley, N.Y. "[The Marines] have to understand what's going on, and how they fit into it. Once they get that, then they can get into the mindset and we do rehearsals until it becomes muscle memory."

Fresh from completing a raid-leaders training course, Sgt Joshua Germond, a platoon sergeant with Lima Co., provided his squad with valuable knowledge that helped them iron out wrinkles in their tactics.

"It definitely gave us a leg up," said Germond, 24, from Knappa, Ore. "I trained my guys how to set up blocking positions and assault support security, so we came ready to build on that and get better."

During the course Marines learned two types of raids; offset and hard-hit raids. An offset raid inserts Marines away from their target and allows them to tactically make their way to the objective, versus a hard-hit raid that where Marines land directly on their objective.

"The Marines did well," McGinty said. "[Military Operations in Urban Terrain] and raids are a difficult beast. A lot of these Marines have less than two years in [the Marine Corps], so there is a bit of a learning curve. Doing it to the level that [Expeditionary Operations Training Group] wants us to be at is new for them, but they're adapting well."

To add to the realistic training, platoons were given new intelligence that would affect their raid minutes before their raid exercise began.

"Alright gents we just got some new [intelligence], so we have to adjust fire," Delgado said to his Marines. "Realistically, this is what's going to happen," Germond said. "It kind of threw us off a little, but that's why we do them now, so we're prepared when it happens."

After each raid exercise, platoon commanders and squad leaders were briefed by instructors on their actions and given direction on how to improve.

"The raids got progressively harder, but they give us the opportunity to take what we learned and apply it," McGinty said.

For their final exercise, Marines conducted an offset night raid, inserting three kilometers away from their objective.

Under the cover of darkness, Marines moved clandestinely into position to assault a simulated enemy position.

After laying down suppressive machinegun and mortar fire, the Marines swiftly swept through the town and accomplished their mission.

"There was a big difference between our first raid and our last raid," Germond said. "They were more vocal, and made decisive decisions."

As the week-long training came to a close, Marines walked away with newfound knowledge and stronger confidence in each other.

"This has been instilled in them by us and the instructors," Germond said. "You're going to see this training pay off as we continue to do our training to deploy. We're better off now, and it shows."

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