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15th MEU Maritime Raid Force develops key skills

US Marine Corps News

By Lance Cpl. Timothy Childers, 15th MEU

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- During the month of April, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force began training with Special Operations Training Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, here and Naval Base San Diego.

The MRF is the MEU’s special operations force. Their primary role is to carry out raids against maritime objectives including gas and oil platforms, ships and targets on shore. This was the first time the MRF was able to practice their unique skill sets as a cohesive unit.

“The MRF performs small scale precision raids as well as maritime interdiction operations in support of MEU operations,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason P. Fitzgerald, MRF staff non-commissioned officer in charge, Command Element, 15th MEU.

The MRF is composed of three elements, assault, security and headquarters. The assault element is made up of Marines and sailors from Force Reconnaissance Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 15th MEU. Servicemembers from Security Platoon, BLT 3/5, make up the security element, and Marines from the Command Element and Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company fill the headquarters element.

“The MRF is important because it provides the MEU with small scale strike capability and a force capable of performing unique mission sets,” said Fitzgerald.

Some of these unique missions include counter-piracy operations like the mission the 15th MEU conducted during its last deployment. On Sept. 9, 2010 Marines boarded and seized control of a vessel boarded by armed pirates. The MRF successfully took control of the ship without any injuries to the ship’s crew or Marines.

“This MRF will do a broader expanse of operations than the previous iterations,” said Capt. Mathew Lesnowicz, MRF commander, Command Element, 15th MEU. “We will focus on counter-piracy, but we will also be relied upon for precision raids on land.”

During the first week of training the servicemembers learned the basic skills they would need for the coming months. The Marines trained at a rappel tower to become proficient in fast roping before sliding from the hellhole of a CH-46E Sea Knight the following week.

Marines and sailors qualified in the Shallow Water Egress Trainer course, which develops servicemembers survival techniques in case of a helicopter crash in open water. The troops also became confident using caving ladders, a portable wire-ladder system, to board vessels from rigid-hulled inflatable boats.

Once the Marines and sailors became proficient in these required skills, they began conducting visit, board, search and seizure drills at Naval Base San Diego. In these drills, the MRF boarded vessels with caving ladders and cleared the ship’s key spaces including the bridge, radio room and engine room.

The unit conducted this training to prepare themselves for Realistic Urban Training next week, which will further enhance their skill sets as the unit’s special operations force

The 15th MEU is a Marine Air Ground Task Force comprised of approximately 2,300 Marines and sailors who are training for their deployment scheduled for this fall.

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