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A Marine serving with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion helps a simulated hostage to safety after clearing the house he was held in by enemy combatants during a mission rehearsal exercise here, Aug. 20, 2013. Marines responded to simulated small-arms fire and artillery rounds with suppressing fire and patrols through the area. An evaluator followed each squad of Marines and assessed their various skills including tactics, coordination and execution during the mission.

Photo by Cpl. Timothy Lenzo

Recon Marines conduct swift, silent rescue during training

29 Aug 2013 | Cpl. Timothy Lenzo 1st Marine Division

Marines serving with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion conducted a raid on a military operations in urban terrain town during a mission rehearsal exercise here, Aug. 19.

With more than 30 role-players acting as locals and enemy combatants, the training tested the Marines’ ability to coordinate with their command element and locate and rescue possible hostages from a hostile force.

The leadership used the scenario to assess the Marines’ effectiveness as they prepare to deploy with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit next year.

Marines serving with Alpha Company landed at night using the cover of darkness to conceal their position. Moving swiftly and silently, they located two compounds of interest to search the first night during a raid.

“During this phase we had already identified the person of interest,” said Master Sgt. David Jarvis, the operations chief of Alpha Company. “Next, we needed to locate and capture the POI.”

Using the element of surprise, Marines searched the compounds quickly and thoroughly. The commands of breaching; clear left, clear right; and room clear resonated through the night as they moved from building to building.

“We moved aggressively through the town,” Jarvis said. “This allowed us to catch several possible combatants off guard and detain them.”

After detaining the suspected combatants, Marines set up a base of operations on the outskirts of town. They set up security and waited for daylight to start conducting patrols and to start asking the locals about the possible hostage.

“We were dealing with a rapid timeline,” Jarvis said. “We were given this task on very short notice as part of the scenario, and we had to plan and prepare to conduct our mission quickly. It was a more realistic timetable for time-sensitive operations.”

A crowd of actors playing locals approached the Marines’ base of operations in the morning. The Marines did not speak the native language and used interpreters to calm down and control the situation.

“Having role-players forces the Marines to make decisions and see how it affects the evolving scenario and the local population,” said Sgt. Alex Sanchez, a team leader serving with Bravo Company, who served as a role-player during parts of the exercise. “It’s more unpredictable for Marines.”

Marines continued to push into the town on patrols after calming the locals and engaged enemy combatants. After receiving intelligence from their command element the hostage was in their area, the Marines stepped up their operations to rescue him.

They took heavy simulated contact from enemy small-arms fire, artillery rounds and rocket-propelled grenade launchers as they pushed into the center of town.

With smoke rising from the simulated artillery rounds, the Marines cleared the remaining compounds, eliminated the remaining hostile threats, and recovered the hostage.

“They should always be on their toes with their head on a swivel,” said Sanchez, a native of Sugar Land, Texas. “When we train hard, we develop muscle memory for the future.”

Marines debriefed with their command element after the rescued hostage was airlifted to safety. 

Senior Marine evaluators observed every level and aspect of the mission during the entire exercise. They graded the Marines on various aspects including tactics, coordination and execution.

“Eventually we will be deployed with the 11th MEU,” Jarvis said.  “This is a certification exercises and assessment, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They went out there and executed the mission how reconnaissance Marines are expected. Overall, they did outstanding.”
1st Marine Division