MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- When the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit has a need to perform a quick, surgical strike, one of the unit's best options is its helicopter borne raid force.
The Marines and Sailors of Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Bn., 2nd Marine Regiment, 26th MEU, have been hard at work here since July 31 learning the intricacies of air assaults at the helo raid course.
The helo raid force is a specially trained Marine rifle company designed to provide the capability of a long to medium range infantry attack, usually on a specific or high-value target, said Capt. William A. Keller, 26th MEU assistant air officer and the action officer for the course.
The 'Black Knights' of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 provide the CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters that carry the force into battle, along with the AH-1W Super Cobra and UH-1N Huey helicopters that provide close air support to the MEU's attacks.
The training here, supervised and taught by II Marine Expeditionary Force's Special Operations Training Group, began with five days of introductory classes and rehearsals that introduced the troops to the doctrines and tactics that govern assaults and raids.
The troops also spent several hours each day on the firing line during the first week of the course for enhanced marksmanship program shoots, putting more than 12,000 rounds down range per session.
The Marines and Sailors spent the second week of the three-week course at the base Military Operations in Urban Terrain training facility, where they conducted practice and simunition (or simulated rounds) live-fire assaults under the watchful eyes of the SOTG instructors.
In the midst of the final week of the course, E Co. now faces full air-ground integration exercises August 7-11 as they carry out company-sized attacks launched from a forward operating base established at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.
During this final stage of training, the role of the SOTG instructors shifts from constant mentors to observers and evaluators as they assess the abilities of the unit to carry out attacks from the air.
The training here is a continuation of the groundwork E Co. established with HMM-264 (Rein.) during the MEU's three-week exercise at Ft. A.P. Hill, Va., June 6-23.
During that evolution, E Co. practiced the loading and unloading of troops from helicopters at the squad-level, giving the company's small-unit leaders their first opportunity to learn how to communicate with the helo's pilots and crews, a critical piece of the puzzle said Capt. Tim S. Brady, Jr., E Co. commander.
During a helo assault, teams can easily become disoriented when dismounting the aircraft, unless the small-unit leaders in charge of the offload have good communication with the pilots and crew, said Keller.
The 26th MEU continues to train here as a part of a rigorous six-month pre-deployment training program that will culminate with a deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism scheduled to depart in early 2007.
For more information on the 26th MEU, got to www.26meu.usmc.mil