OKINAWA, Japan — A team of force reconnaissance Marines stack up beside the door of a concrete building here, but in their minds this is a hatch along a passageway in a ship at sea. Silent signals move them quickly through the entryway in a fluid search for targets.
The Marines of Force Reconnaissance Platoon, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, practiced room-clearing operations and precision-fire drills as a way of building their Visit, Board, Search and Seizure skills, August 18.
The 31st MEU is required to be capable of conducting specific at-sea operations before it deploys for patrols of the Asia-Pacific region. Among the scenarios which the MEU must be able to respond to is a VBSS, undertaken to secure a ship at sea which may be under the control of hostile forces.
To ensure the MEU’s ability to respond to a hijacked ship, the Marines of FRP conduct this training annually to ensure a heightened state of readiness. Although the Marines were clearing a land-based structure, the methods used are very similar, and in some cases the same, as the ones used when searching and securing a ship.
“When assaulting houses and ships, the tactics remain pretty much the same,” said Cpl. Derric Hardy a radio operator with FRP, 31st MEU. “There are a few things that change so you can still use both interchangeably to keep your training up.”
The 31st MEU’s role in the Asia-Pacific region makes the VBSS capabilities of the reconnaissance Marines even more valuable. Before the 31st MEU deploys for a patrol of the Asia-Pacific region, the FRP conducts an eight-week training course to ensure they are prepared to respond to any situations that may arise.
During the day’s training, shooters rapidly engaged multiple targets through the use of various firing drills. They were often required to shoot while closing with the targets, and even switch weapons and engage the targets while still on the move.
According to Sgt. Daniel Boung, assistant team leader for the FRP, it is just as important to maintain weapon skills as it is to maintain VBSS skills.
“In the case of a highly stressful situation, we need to be able to engage a target quickly and accurately,” said Boung. “Doing so actually helps the survivability of the team when clearing rooms because when you see the targets, you put them down quickly with accurate fire.”
It is the constant training on weapons tactics, VBSS skills and various other training events FRP conducts that maintain their wide range of capabilities in support of the 31st MEU.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.