USS ESSEX, At sea --
Three MV-22B Ospreys land on San Clemente Island, Calif., simultaneously. A dust storm swarms around the Marines as they run out of the aircraft and set up 360 degrees of security, waiting for their next move.
As the birds fly away, squads break away to their designated objectives to secure two towns on the island. Each Marine within Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, knows the scheme of maneuver; where they are supposed to be, what to do if they have a casualty and when they are providing cover for their fellow Marines.
Several moving parts go into each raid and the plan constantly changes throughout the mission.
This was the scene on March 22, as Marines with BLT 3/1, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, executed a raid on San Clemente Island during Composite Training Unit Exercise, or COMPTUEX.
This raid was only a fraction of the training the Marines have done, and will do, in preparation for the MEU’s deployment.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Aaron Telles, a machine gun squad leader with 2nd platoon, Lima Co., BLT 3/1, explained the process they go through up to actually performing a mission. He said when they receive the warning order, they are immediately making sure they have all the proper gear and figuring out details such as how they are going to mark things like buildings and the lead element.
“Typically, the squad leaders will get together with the platoon commander and he will say what we have to do and generally the direction he wants us to do it,” Telles said. “From there, the [squad leaders] say how they are going to implement that plan.”
After the initial plan is laid out, the Marines go over rehearsals and work out the mission as an entire company.
“When we do rehearsals, we look at the mission, see what we’re going to have to do, such as room clearing, and we’ll practice everything from basic two-man clearing of an open door to more complex things such as stairwells, multiple rooms, and multiple entries,” Telles said. “We go from A-to-Z in the most thorough manner possible based on the mission set.”
In the final hours before they leave for the mission, each individual Marine is prepared with all the proper gear, knowledge and training.
Telles explained that at that point, his focus moves to the well-being and safety of the Marines in his squad and how he is going to adapt and employ them in the mission.
“In my mind, I just think about how I’m no longer that trigger-puller; I have to fight [for] my squad,” Telles said.
The hours, days, and months the Marines spend together pay off because they know each other in and out. They can accurately predict what each other will do next and what they’re thinking.
“Everybody knows how each one of us move, we know how each one of us think,” Telles said. “We’re very close, very close knit.”
That bond the Marines form throughout the time spent living and training together gives them a different mindset while implementing the plan of attack.
“I don’t care how much ammo these guys can carry, I don’t care how good they are behind the machine gun,” Telles said. “The ‘good enough’ is when they can keep each other safe and I don’t have to call anyone’s mom [with bad news].”
When the Marines land back onto the USS Essex (LHD 2), they don’t stop training. While the mission is still fresh in their minds they share what they experienced during a debrief. There, they learn more about the enemy and about themselves. Capturing those lessons helps them improve each time, making them even more prepared for the next mission.
These Marines will continue training and improving during COMPTUEX. Their next at sea period, Certification Exercise (CERTEX), they will face more challenging scenarios. By the time they leave for deployment, Lima Company, and all the other Marines and Sailors of the MEU will be ready for anything that comes their way.