MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Elements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed the ground insertion Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) course at the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force Special Operations Training Group compound here, August 19.
The Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) platoon for the 26th MEU, and the Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT) platoon from Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Bn., 2nd Marine Regiment, went through the course as part of the 26th MEU's rigorous six-month pre-deployment training cycle.
The combined force, designated Task Force Sledgehammer by the 26th MEU, finished the ground insertion course two weeks following the successful completion of the air insertion TRAP course by other Marines from BLT 2/2.
TRAP missions involve recovering downed pilots and personnel, destroying unexploded munitions, and destroying or recovering downed aircraft and equipment.
TRAP missions are important because they are usually in direct support of a comrade in need, said 1st Lt. Rollin A. D. Steele, platoon commander for LAR.
"It is a mission dedicated to picking up our own personnel who are vulnerable and need our help quickly," he said.
Sergeant Zebulan D. Minde, a squad leader in CAAT, agreed with Steele.
"It goes along with everything we've been taught, to never leave anybody behind, and to get your boys back home," he said.
This course was the first time the two units had worked together, and both units' leadership had to work out how exactly they would complement each other on missions.
The LAR platoon utilizes Light Armored Vehicle-25s, which carry a 25 mm Bushmaster cannon and up to two mounted M240G 7.62 mm machine guns. The vehicles carry a three-man crew, as well as up to four infantrymen, called "scouts".
CAAT employs High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, or humvees, as its transportation. It employs the MK19 automatic grenade launcher, the M2 .50 caliber machine gun, and the TOW missile system on its vehicles. Each vehicle can hold five men, including the gunner and driver.
The two vehicles have different capabilities, and while that could have caused problems, it instead allowed the leadership to experiment to determine the best way to utilize both forces.
"It gave us a little more flexibility and options, as well as more weapons systems," said Steele. "But by day two, we had already established our [standard operating procedures]."
Lance Corporal Jason J. Morgan, a TOW gunner in the CAAT platoon, said that after the units gelled together and worked out the kinks, everything went very smoothly.
"The firepower LAR provided could put out a little more heavy fire than we could alone, and they could bring more people. The combination worked well - they had heavier vehicles with a little more firepower, and we were a little more maneuverable," said Morgan.
He added, "Communication was a big key to the success of this exercise."
The final mission of the course tested the abilities of the TRAP team, forcing them to maneuver and recover personnel in a nighttime environment.
After the Marines and Sailors completed the mission in a timely fashion, they settled in for a few hours of rest before deploying to the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group for the 26th MEU's Expeditionary Strike Group Integration Training.
Steele praised the efforts of the TRAP team and the Marines and Sailors who comprised it.
"They've done an excellent job," he said. "They all have initiative and many of them are experienced."
He added that the teams in the exercises did well because of their Marine training and the guidance of the SOTG instructors.
"The Marines work well in small groups, they are used to working independently of each other," he said, adding, "The [SOTG] instructors have been a big help."
The 26th MEU continues to train during the pre-deployment period in order to facilitate the merger of the disparate elements of the MEU into a cohesive, rapid-reaction force. The 26th MEU will continue to prepare for a scheduled early 2007 deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
For more information on the 26th MEU, go to www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.