Service members perfect helo-ops during Lejeune II
CAMP SCHWAB -- When Marines go behind enemy lines, precise planning, execution and withdrawal from the objective are essential to the success of the mission and the safety of the Marines. The 2011 Marine Corps rescue of a downed U.S. Air Force pilot in Libya and the daring U.S. Navy SEAL raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan were prime examples of the dangers and benefits of real-world helicopter-borne operations and the value they add to the U.S. military.
Marine Corps Warfighting Publication 3-11.4, Helicopter-borne Operations, explains that a successful raid requires swift penetration into hostile territory for a specific purpose other than seizing or holding terrain, ending with a planned withdrawal when the mission is accomplished. Key to that success is the element of surprise, which ensures the integrity of the mission is not compromised.
Service members executed a helicopter-borne night raid Sept. 13 during Exercise Lejeune II. Exercise Lejeune II is a joint exercise taking place at Camp Schwab and surrounding training areas with an emphasis on aerial assault training.
During the exercise, six U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the U.S. Army’s 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade assisted Marines with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program.
“The purpose of the exercise is to ensure the unit’s combat readiness,” said 1st Lt. Tyler A. Kistner, a platoon commander with 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines. “Specifically, for this portion of the exercise, it is to get the Marines familiar and proficient with helicopter-borne operations.”
Training for night raids is important because to properly insert behind enemy lines takes immense planning and precision to ensure success, according to Kistner.
“The training is geared toward landing zone operations: inserting Marines, providing security at the landing zone, stealth-disciplined advancement toward the objective, and then extraction from the landing zone after successfully completing the mission,” said Kistner.
The evolution consisted of multiple elements to make the training as realistic as possible.
“My platoon was tasked-out as the assault element for the raid, and internally my squad was the security element once the Black Hawks dropped us off,” said Cpl. Eric S. Eastman, an infantryman with 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines. “Our initial responsibility after touchdown at the LZ was to establish security, so that the assault and support elements could push forward toward the objective.”
It is especially important for junior Marines to experience what it is like to train and operate in the Asia-Pacific region since many of them have yet to deploy and because the U.S. military’s focus has shifted to this area of operation, according to Eastman.
While many missions in Afghanistan are in retrograde, it is important to maintain a high state of readiness as the U.S. military’s focus shifts toward the Asia-Pacific region.
Establishing a good relationship with other branches of the U.S. military helps mitigate risk and confusion in the event of a real-life situation requiring military intervention and assistance, according to Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Josleyn, a mortarman with 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines.
“By learning how to communicate effectively and establish common ground with other branches of the military we will be able to respond to a natural disaster or other crisis at a moment’s notice together,” said Josleyn.