ABOARD USS TARAWA -- A detachment of Marines from 3rd platoon, 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, and Marines from 1st Platoon, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Battalion Landing Team 2/1, both attached to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) recently trained at Marine Corps Base, Hawaii, to enhance their war fighting techniques.
Although training focused on diving to renew their dive qualification status, reconnaissance Marines also jumped from an airplane and fired their weapons to ensure they were combat ready.
Reconnaissance Marines have a wide variety of insertion platforms ranging from jumping to diving into enemy territory. Their training in Hawaii encompassed all three aspects of air, sea and land to enhance their war fighting capabilities.
During the dive portion of their training, the reconnaissance Marines focused on their underwater communication skills.
"This training was helpful because it allowed us to work on our hand and arm signals moving up to the objective sight while we were under water," said HM2 (DV/FPJ) Matt S. Pranka, 27, a hospital corpsman with 3rd Platoon, 1st Force Reconnaissance Detachment who is a native of Nashville, Tenn.
The water is much more forgiving in Hawaii than the training grounds aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., because the water is a lot clearer, according to Pranka. Marines become more comfortable performing nighttime missions by working in those conditions.
"Even though it was nice to train in Hawaii, the dive training we received at Pendleton was invaluable because the water is similar to the region we're about to enter," Pranka added.
Reconnaissance Marines use diving for a stealthily movement to the objective sight.
"Diving enables us to move clandestinely to either conduct a demolition on a ship, perform a limited scale raid or to (Reconnaissance and Surveillance) on the shoreline," Pranka said.
Reconnaissance Marines are tested every six months to ensure they are qualified to dive. Leathernecks earn their qualification at Combat Dive School in Panama City, Fla., where they learn dive physics, scuba, close circuit diving and how to treat a dive casualty throughout the eight-week course, according to Staff Sgt. Ben J. Cushing, 25, a team leader with 3rd Platoon, 1st Force Reconnaissance who is a native of Alpaso, Texas.
"This training was extremely important because it was the last time on our way to the (Area of Responsibility) we could become dive qualified and it also helped re-establish good (Standard Operating Procedures)," said Sgt. Shane Denna, 30, assistant radio operator, 1st Force Reconnaissance, who is a native Ukiah, Calif. "It was good to get back in the water and back in the harness. It's good to know that we have solid SOP?s."
Diving is one of the more difficult missions for recon Marines, because it's very physically demanding on the body, according to Denna.
While the Marines weren't diving or firing their weapons, they used their spare time to jump. The Hawaiian terrain is tropical and much different from the dry conditions to the Middle East and Africa. To help prepare them for training in desert conditions reconnaissance Marines traveled to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., during workups where desert temperatures are similar.
"It's nice not to work in the desert, however the training we received at Pendleton and Yuma was extremely helpful for desert training," Denna said.
In addition to diving, qualified reconnaissance Marines performed a free fall jump from 10,000 feet and the rest performed a static line jump, which is when the parachute opens immediately after exiting the aircraft.
Reconnaissance Marines can jump anywhere from 800 feet during a static line jump to a free fall jump of 30,000 feet which requires oxygen.
After landing in a designated landing zone with a diameter of 20 meters for accountability and for force protection purposes, reconnaissance Marines hid their parachutes and began patrolling to their objective sight, according to Pranka.
"Diving and jumping are absolutely mission essential to recon for insert purposes because it expands our abilities to support the MEU," Pranka said.
Besides diving and jumping, the Marines fired the M4 Carbine rifle and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon to ensure they were accurate for close quarters battle and while on patrol.
"The training enabled us to practice two different insertion techniques and to ensure all of our (Battle-sight Zeros) are correct," Cushing said.
Being able to adapt to every situation is one of the characteristics of these Marines.
"What I like about this training is the diversity," said Sgt. Steven D. Morris, 25, assistant team leader with 3rd Platoon, 1st Force Reconnaissance Detachment, who is a native of Missoula, Mont. "One day we're jumping, the next day we're diving and the next day we're shooting - it's great training. It's real nice that the MEU provides the assets to let us train like this. This was the last opportunity we could do any sustainment training before the real deal."