Djibouti, AFRICA – The dark night wouldn’t allow the human eye to see anything further than two feet ahead, but that didn’t stop the Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit from conducting their mission.
After three months at sea, the infantryman of Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, loaded CH-46E Sea Knights and a CH-53E Super Stallion headed for land to conduct a night raid in Djibouti, Dec. 16.
The raid was a part of the sustainment training the 15th MEU was conducting in Djibouti, which was designed to build upon the skills the unit developed during their pre-deployment training cycle. This was the first raid Kilo Company conducted since the deployment began in September.
“This is a great opportunity to get off the ship, train at night and give us a good idea of where stand in our tactical proficiency,” said 1st Lt. Eric M. Montgomery, platoon commander, 1st Platoon, Kilo Co., BLT 3/5, 15th MEU. “It was great training for the Marines, and it allowed us to get back to what we’re good at,” added the 29-year-old native of Willoughby, Ohio.
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 mission for this scenario was to destroy the enemy’s coastal defense site. Two AH-1Z Cobras and three AV-8B Harriers with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 (Rein.), 15th MEU, acted as the initial element in the movement, destroying the enemy’s anti-air and radar sites. Shortly after this initial action, Marines with 1st Platoon acted as the assault element when they unloaded from 1 CH-53E Super Stallion and 3 CH-46E Sea Knights to clear the enemy defense on the ground.
During a typical raid, the forces are broken up into an assault element, which serves as the main effort, a security element, which provides blocking positions and a support-by-fire element providing suppressive machine gun fire for the assault element conducting the raid. Using night optics devices, First Platoon was the assault element, while other Marines from Kilo Co. served in the security and support-by-fire elements, respectively.
“Doing raids at night keeps your squad working and thinking as a team,” said Cpl. Tyler J. Barnes, team leader, 1st Platoon, Kilo Co., BLT 3/5, 15th MEU. “Night missions are more difficult, which brings more thorough and intense planning on everyone’s part” added the 21-year-old native of Traverse City, Mich.
Upon landing, the assault element closed in 200 meters of their objective, clearing five different buildings, marking each building with different colored chem-lights to alert the rest of the element which buildings were potentially hazardous. A green-star cluster was shot into the sky, firing off into a small firework effect, acting as a signaling device to alert the raid force that the objective had been cleared.
The Marines then moved to the tactical site exploitation portion of the raid, an opportunity for the unit to gather information on the enemy’s situation. During this phase, they drew sketches and took photographs to use as intelligence for possible follow-on missions.
“Conducting TSE is crucial during raids because the intelligence we gather usually leads to follow-on missions,” said Barnes.
The assault element then moved back to their original landing zone and awaited their extract, flying back to the USS Peleliu.
“We came together as a team during the early stages of the pre-deployment training,” said Barnes. “Training missions like these solidify the camaraderie amongst the Marines.”
Kilo Company is one of three rifle companies in BLT 3/5, the 15th MEU’s ground combat element.
The 15th MEU is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.