Recon Marines prep for MEU

22 May 2002 | LCpl. G. Lane Miley

Under the morning's haze, the helicopter moves toward the aquatic landing zone. The first stick of Marines grows impatient, anticipating the day's jumps. Receiving the hand signals from his platoon commander, the assistant cast master yells over the roar of the bird's blades, "Two minutes!"

Marines from 6th Platoon, 2d Force Reconnaissance Battalion participated in "helo-casting" May 22 as part of an amphibious training package at ALZ Gator.

The 2d Marine Division platoon broke into teams of six and jumped from the back decks of a CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Sea Stallion into Onslow Bay here.

They jumped with a partially inflated Zodiac rubber raft equipped with a 55-horsepower engine, which they motored to shore. They also performed slick jumps, without the Zodiacs, where they swam ashore approximately 500 yards through a then unrelenting surf zone.

The Marines have trained for the past six months to ready themselves for an upcoming deployment with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit in December, according to Platoon Commander Capt. Andrew R. Christian.

"The package began in Las Vegas where we did combined arms training. We worked with the Air Force's stealth fighters, lazing targets with the special operating forces laser marker. We were the first platoon to do this," Christian said.
After that, 6th Platoon completed a two-and-a-half week cold-weather-training package in Wisconsin where they worked with snowshoes and skis.

"As part of a week-long demolitions package, we learned improvised demolitions systems, followed by a week of weapons training," said Christian, "We shot every weapon the Marine Corps has."

"We're all precision shooters," said Sgt. Sean T. Mickle, 6th Platoon assistant cast master. "We fired everything from the M-4 to the 45mm." He continued, "Once inserted, our missions could range from clearing the beach and size it to fit an infantry company coming ashore, to providing security for them or doing a reconnaissance mission and providing a photo link-up to the command on ship."

Christian explained the platoon had to complete a communications package prior to attaching to the MEU.

"We worked with UHF/VHF radios, took digital photos and used satellite communications to send the pictures back to ship," he said.

He also said force reconnaissance Marines must be capable of insertion from anywhere.

"We completed a two-week high altitude/high opening training package, where we parachuted from 25,000 feet," he said, "We also did deep reconnaissance missions at Fort Bragg, N.C. We infiltrated the Army's special forces."

The amphibious training package is the final part of the platoon's training before they attach to the MEU. According to Sgt. Travis D. Haley, the training these Marines participate in leads to some long nights.

"Every night is a late night," he said. "We spend a lot of hours out here. Sometimes all you have is one another. This isn't a glory job - we're always wet and cold. We've got to keep each other up."

Haley said with all the time they spend together, he feels most force recon Marines has developed an almost telepathic relationship.

"You know what everybody else is thinking," he said, "You have to; you have to say it without saying a word. It's like a game, but here your choice makes a difference whether you live or die.