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1st Marine Division

Camp Pendleton, CA
1st Recon conducts joint training during Angel Thunder

By Lance Cpl. Danielle Rodrigues | I Marine Expeditionary Force | June 19, 2015

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The hum of the bird was deafening as it hovered just above the ship; its wings chopping through the air in a steady rhythm. One by one, a group of Marines and Coast Guardsmen began to lower themselves out of its side and onto the deck below. Once they were safely boarded, the helicopter left in a flurry of wind and ocean mist while the men quickly began to search the vessel.

Marines with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, trained with members of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security team, and Air Force Pararescuemen during Exercise Angel Thunder off the coast of Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton, California, June 9-11, 2015.

Exercise Angel Thunder is a joint personnel recovery operation designed to provide military branches and partner nations with the opportunity to train together in order to prepare for times of war and crisis.

“In every event and any kind of expeditionary operation that we find ourselves in, it’s important for us to share the tactics that make us effective in the joint arena so we can be more successful against our enemies,” said Maj. Byron Owen, the commanding officer of 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division.

The training focused on visit, board, search and seizure procedures aboard the USNS Atlas. Air Force Pararescuemen provided medical attention to simulated casualties, while Marines and Coast Guardsmen acted as the assault force by searching the ship and providing security against simulated aggressors.  

“The Coast Guard’s job was to get control of the vessel and then call in the Marines as a quick reaction force to come in and help us secure the rest of the vessel,” said Coast Guard Lt. Paul Leon, the assault force commander of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security team in San Diego. “After that we had some injury scenarios set up where we actually needed higher level medical care other than what our combat medics provided on scene. That’s where the Air Force Pararescuemen came in.”

This year, the Maritime Safety and Security team was the first Coast Guard unit to participate in Angel Thunder, said Leon.

“I think the biggest takeaway here is how we can coordinate and conduct planning together and understand each other’s limitations and capabilities, while developing the personal and professional relationships between the services that will make us more successful when we deploy together,” said Owen.

The Marine Corps has been participating in Angel Thunder for the past three years and every year they have expanded their role because of how much it’s benefitting the Marines, Owen added.

“The best thing about this exercise was being able to work with each other out here in this training environment where it’s as realistic as it can possibly get,” said Leon. “We shot simulation rounds during force on force contact, and had simulated casualties that actually had to be transported off on boat and helicopter. With this training, we now know what to expect if we ever deploy with the Force Reconnaissance Marines or Air Force PJs.”


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