MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- A detachment of Marines and Sailors from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted Training in an Urban Environment (TRUE) April 2-20 at various private and federal locations in the greater Los Angeles area.
Since three quarters of the world's population live in urban environments, Marines and Sailors must become proficient fighting in a wide variety of urban settings. The city lights and skyscrapers of Metropolitan Los Angeles afforded these Marines the opportunity to hone special skills required to operate in this unique environment.
"The exercise was vital to the MSPF (Maritime Special Purpose Force)," said Sgt. T. Ryan Sparks, a 26-year-old reconnaissance scout with the Force Reconnaissance platoon and San Diego native. "We saw a lot of different building structures and room setups. There is only so much we can do in the buildings we have on Camp Pendleton."
The MEU's Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF) is the core element that conducts select, maritime special operations missions. The force is comprised of a Force Reconnaissance platoon, an infantry security platoon, battalion reconnaissance Marines, scout snipers, and special detachments from the MEU's Command Element and MEU Service Support Group.
Essential to MSPF missions is the detailed coordination between all elements of the force, the Command Element and the Aviation Combat Element.
Simulating the Landing Force Operations Center (LFOC) aboard ship, the MEU's battle staff used a hangar here as its command post throughout the exercise. Detailed planning and preparation for each "mission" was conducted there.
The MEU's Forward Command Element (FCE) "deployed" to an off-base facility that simulated an American embassy in the scenario country. The FCE facilitated information between the embassy and the LFOC, receiving realistic training while interacting with former embassy representatives.
During TRUE, the MSPF conducted three direct action exercises; several Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) exercises aboard vessels in Long Beach and San Diego; and a Gas/Oil Platform exercise at Seal Beach. The force had not visited any of the sites previously.
"The last hit (a direct action mission) was especially challenging," Sparks said. "There were multiple buildings we had to deal with. Aggressors were outside and inside. It was the first time we faced something of that scale.
Marine helicopter pilots practiced urban flying and navigation techniques, using urban terrain features as navigation tools.
"It is very rare for us to get the chance to fly low over real urban areas," Sgt. Randy S. Chabot, a 25-year-old CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter crew chief and a native of Turner, Maine, said. "This exercise will have lasting value for all of us."
The training assists Marines and sailors in preparation for a number of maritime and civic action missions, such as those conducted following earthquakes in Turkey, volcanic eruptions in the Philippines, and devastating typhoons in Bangladesh. The MEU must be able to accomplish such actions during an upcoming deployment to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf regions.
"This exercise is about as close as it gets to the real thing," Chabot declared.
TRUE exercises have been conducted in various cities since 1985, including San Diego, San Francisco and Phoenix. These cities offer urban training not available at Marine installations.
For more news, photos and information on the 15th MEU visit http://www.usmc.mil/15meu