CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- With their chutes billowing above them, four reconnaissance Marines drifted earthward above the surf zone. From a lofty 10,000-foot descent path, they had an excellent view of the troop-laden amphibious vehicles as they emerged from the water and assaulted further inland. Two F/A18 Hornet screamed overhead as they also struck "targets of opportunity" during the assault on the beach.
This was the opening scene of the Jan. 31, II Marine Expeditionary Force Capabilities Exercise here that served to display modern Marine Corps strength and skill before more than 200 former Marines, graduate students, millionaire entrepreneurs, movie producers and other civilian guests.
They, along with members of other military branches, watched the Assault Amphibian vehicles splash into the Intracoastal Waterway while thunderous booms rocked the ground as twin 155mm howitzers rearranged an impact area miles away.
Further inland, the jets continued to circle above two hovering AH1W Cobra attack helicopters as they provided air support for a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft Personnel (TRAP) mission. The scene simulated the rescue of a downed aviator under hostile conditions.
Carina Van Vliet was impressed by the display. "We studied this, but haven't ever seen it in action before," said the Johns Hopkins University graduate student.
The crowd watched as a multi-craft riverine assault and rescue scenario unfolded. Small Craft Company, a Headquarters and Service Battalion, 2d Marine Division asset, conducted it.
With Cobra attack helicopters hovering above the water providing support, coxswains skillfully maneuvered their boats to also provide suppressing fire while scout swimmers swam ashore. They secured a foothold against an "enemy" force that allowed the larger raid party to extract "captured" service members.
Second Force Service Support Group demonstrated the rapid construction of a medium girder bridge that was dropped into place by helicopter all while serving the guests some of the best field chow in the Marine Corps.
The guests also witnessed the versatility of the AV-8B Harrier jet's vertical take-off and landing capabilities. The crowd covered their ears as the jet cruised low over the trees and landed on a stretch of Highway 172.
Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF), II MEF, a specially trained unit that reacts to biological/chemical warfare, demonstrated how they handle the discovery of a "chemical agent" and their use of a remote-controlled bomb recovery/detonation robot.
The show's grand finale was a mechanized assault of "Combat Town," a realistic, small town training area, complete with parked cars and laundry hung out to dry. The facility is used to practice military operations in urban terrain.
Under the blanket of cover fire from armored vehicles and helicopters, Marines aggressively attacked and systematically cleared the buildings of the "enemy."
When asked how he felt seeing the Corps in action, former reconnaissance Marine Ross Korey from Buffalo, N.Y., said, "I can't put it into words."
"This is utterly awesome...all the technology and MOSs (Military Occupational Specialties) working together...very impressive," said Anthony M. Peters, another one of New York's former Marines.
Movie producer Frank Capra, Jr., commented that the professionalism of the Marines involved was outstanding.
"It's awesome to see lance corporals doing what they do best...train and put on a great show," said Sgt. Maj. Joseph M. Morgan, the 2d Marine Division sergeant major.