CHOCOLATE MOUNTAINS, Calif. --
The heat poured down on the rocky terrain approximately three kilometers from the objective rally point. Two CH-53E Super Stallions departed the area and kicked up sand in the faces of the Marines they just dropped off.
The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force began its movement into the Chocolate Mountains, May 16. The Marines and sailors moved stealthily into position in preparation for a raid they would conduct that night.
The mission was to capture a high-value individual, who was reported to be a key leader of a local organization, during the ground portion of Realistic Urban Training.
A reconnaissance and surveillance team was sent 48 hours prior to the operation to confirm the target’s location and gather information about the site to help facilitate the raid.
“This was a very complex raid,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason P. Fitzgerald, staff non-commissioned officer in charge, MRF, 15th MEU. “There was a lot of coordination between air and ground assets, which culminated in the clearing of a target site, while defending against reinforcements from adjacent buildings,” added the 33-year-old native of Mt. Laurel, N.J.
The Department of Defense defines a raid as ‘an operation to temporarily seize an area in order to secure information, confuse an adversary, capture personnel or equipment, or to destroy a capability culminating with a planned withdrawal.’
The MRF is broken up into three elements: assault, security and headquarters. The assault element is a platoon-sized unit of Force Reconnaissance Marines. The security element is made up of Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3/5. The headquarters element is comprised of support personnel who provide the MRF commander with command and control to help him accomplish the mission.
“The assault is the main effort,” said Fitzgerald. “Their mission is to clear and secure the main objective building where the high-valued individual was believed to be.”
The security element was divided into three teams: a security element, a supporting element, which accompanied the assault, and the support by fire element, which was staged in two locations to provide suppressive fire during the assault.
“This was a learning experience for the Marines,” said Staff Sgt. Lorenzo J. Arballo Jr., platoon sergeant, Security Element, MRF, 15th MEU. “The junior leaders learned to take charge when their leader went down. Additionally, they learned to control the fight and remain out of harm’s way,” added the 37-year-old native of Lexington, Ky.
Arballo also said he feels his Marines learned to never fall in love with a plan.
“It’s a lesson that can be applied in real life,” he said. “Learning to be adaptable to different situations is a skill you can use anywhere.”
The Marines were rehearsing and planning for this operation for several hours each day. In their down time, the elements would constantly refine and practice their respective trades.
“If we have the basics down, we will be able to change plans at a moment’s notice,” said Cpl. Gerardo Flores, 3rd squad leader, Security Element, MRF, 15th MEU. “Practicing things like patrolling, clearing houses, hand and arm signals were all key components of making us a more effective force. With all the rehearsals, we were able to identify small deficiencies and correct them.”
The 15th MEU conducted the ground portion of RUT in preparation for their deployment scheduled for this fall.