Photo Information

2nd Lt. Philip R. Banham, a platoon commander with Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, reviews the proper procedures for fast-roping out of a helicopter prior to conducting a maritime interception exercise at a training facility in Barnwell, S.C., June 23, 2010. 26th MEU Unit’s Maritime Interception Operation raid force conducted the three-day exercise in preparation for deployment this fall. The exercise hones the MEU’s ability to swiftly control the operation of a hostile ship or maritime platform. (Official USMC Photo by Lance Cpl. Santiago G. Colon Jr.)::r::::n::

Photo by Lance Cpl. Santiago G. Colon Jr.

26th MEU raid force hones maritime interception skills

24 Jun 2010 | Lance Cpl. Santiago G. Colon Jr.

Marines prepare to fast-rope onto a building as their hovering Navy MH-60S Seahawk Helicopter begins to inch closer to the rooftop.

The Marines launch their ropes and swiftly slide down onto the roof, which serves as the simulated deck of a ship. As soon as the team is on the deck, they quickly assemble and breach the building entrances where their enemy waits to resist.

Their objective: to take control of the simulated ship and capture or eliminate enemy threats within it.

This was the goal during a three-day Maritime Interception Operations exercise held at a training facility in Barnwell, S.C., June 22-24.

The exercise provided integrated and sustainment training in the areas of breaching, fast-roping, tight-quarters maneuvering, and ship control for the raid force. Marines with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit worked in cooperation with Helicopter Sea Combat 22 sailors based out of Norfolk, Va., as well as civilian law enforcement and military training instructors. The training utilized buildings renovated to simulate naval vessels. Marine scout snipers also trained in aerial assault by shooting targets on a nearby range from UH-N1 Huey and Navy MH-60S Seahawk Helicopters.

Despite the fact that the training took place inside a building and not a ship, the tight spaces and low-light environment provided a realistic feel for the Marines, said Lance Cpl. Stephen McCormick, a radio operator with Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th MEU.

“This building with its very enclosed spaces provided for good ship training since ships have narrow passageways,” McCormick said. Ship passageways and spaces are extremely narrow and become more difficult for Marines to maneuver through when they are wearing combat gear. This training helped prepare the Marines to overcome these kinds of challenges.

Inside the building the Marines encountered role-players offering varying degrees of compliance, including simulated gunfire from hostile personnel. The force also had to compete with language barriers, had to check for identification of people inside, and negotiate the challenges that come with simulated improvised explosive devices, said Chad Harbaugh, president of Government Training Institute, the company facilitating the training during the exercise.

“This building offered us a ton of flexibility,” Harbaugh said. “Training inside the building is analogous to training in the belly of the ship.”

The exercise is an important part of preparing 26th MEU Marines for their upcoming deployment as the MEU has dealt with similar situations in the past. In January 2009, 26th MEU provided support to Combined Task Force 151, an international naval task force set up in response to piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia.

“What these abilities provide the MEU commander is the ability to train with multinational Maritime Interception Operation teams and conduct real-world missions on different platforms as piracy has become more prevalent in the past few years,” said Lt. j.g. Carrie L. Muller, lead planner for the training event.

The Maritime Interception Operations exercise was one of the last land-based training evolutions for the MEU prior to its deployment. Next for 26th MEU is Composite Training Unit Exercise, during which MEU Marines will project power ashore from Naval vessels. After that, the Marines' Certification Exercise will be the last training event for the Camp Lejeune-based 26th MEU before deployment.