26th MEU hones urban warfighting skills

26 Sep 2002 | Sgt. Roman Yurek

DAYTON, Ohio - The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit recently concluded 15 days of intense combat training here September 26, complete with the realistic sights, sounds and challenges of conflict in a real-world urban environment.

The training, dubbed TRUE EX for Training in an Urban Environment Exercise, began Sept. 12 and is a vital step for the MEU as it prepares for its Special Operations Capable Exercise and real-world operations.

The goals for the TRUE EX, were to execute live fire precision raids, exercise intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities, exercise aviation operations in an urban environment and refine the command element's rapid response planning process, according to Lt. Col. Kevin Wooley, the MEU operations officer.

Adding to the challenges of accomplishing these goals was the fact the MEU has never trained in the Dayton area before.  The Marine Corps has been conducting these exercises since 1985, however a unit seldom uses the same city twice.

In the Dayton exercise, after intelligence announced the whereabouts of an "enemy" location, the helicopters began revving up and the Marines started to prepare for an assault on an abandoned seven-story building.

The pilots had to become accustomed to flying tactically in a city, which they don't get to do to often, explained Lt. Col. William Wainwright, commanding officer for Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 (Reinforced) "Black Knights."

"The dedicated (air combat element) training flown in the urban environment allowed us to validate the squadron (standard operating procedures).  That will allow us to be more effective and efficient in supporting the 26th MEU in any urban combat zone," said Wainwright.

It was up to these pilots to ensure the Marine raid forces were dropped on the target building.  The precision of these drops was vital for the Marines.

During training in traditional combat zones, a drop 50 meters off is usually nothing more than an inconvenience, explained Wainwright.  On a rooftop however, those 50 meters could mean the lives of Marines.

Though Wainwright said the training went well, he added, "We are never content to accept our current proficiency."

Marines from the Force Reconnaissance Detachment most likely appreciated the precision drops from the HMM-264 pilots.  These were the leathernecks that raided the buildings and searched every room for enemy targets and information.

What made this training in an unfamiliar city vital was that at Camp Lejeune training facilities, the learning curve tends to go down after Recon Marines raid the same location ten times, explained Capt. Andrew Christian, platoon commander for the Force Recon Detachment.

"This is the only place these Marines are able to train in an area that mirrors a real world situation," said Christian.

The fast tempo operation, which included three major situational training exercises, was not all combat related however.  Two "outreach" programs allowed Marines to break away from the daily routine and give back to the community hosting them.  The first evolution was Sept. 19, when an AH-1W "Super Cobra," and CH-46E "Sea Knight" left Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to visit three different high schools.

Here, the Marines were able to assist local recruiters find the next generation of Marines by showcasing the Corps' capabilities to the young people.

Near the end of exercise, on Sept. 25, Marines went into Miamisburg, Ohio, to assist the Habitat for Humanity program with a house-building project.

With the urban exercise complete, the MEU was finally able to return to Camp Lejeune.  They left Ohio with a successful training evolution behind them, said Wooley.

Next the MEU will execute the Amphibious Ready Group Exercise, just one step closer to earning its Special Operations Capable qualification and its next deployment.