ABOARD USS TARAWA -- It requires a strong, precise and experienced team of "warriors from the sea" to answer the nation's call.
The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Navy-Marine team recently took one step closer as America's future 911 force for the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf regions during Fleet Exercise 00-2.
During its second at-sea period, the 13th MEU, aboard ships of the Tarawa Amphibious Ready Group, applied its skills, experience and teamwork for FleetEx before its final test - the Special Operations Capable Exercise.
At the heart of 13th MEU's arsenal to conduct special operations missions is its Maritime Special Purpose Force. The 13th MEU's MSPF is comprised of an infantry security platoon and scout sniper section from Battalion Landing Team 3/1, and a Force Reconnaissance Platoon and other special detachments from the MEU's Command Element.
During FleetEx, the MSPF conducted a Direct Action mission, a Gas/Oil Platform takedown mission and a ship Visit, Board, Search and Seizure mission. With more than four months experience together training as a team, the MSPF was able to perfect their skills during its last pre-deployment training cycle before SOCEX.
The Direct Action mission, conducted in the Los Angeles area, tested the MSPF's ability to hunt down and secure a person indicted of a war crime from ship to shore. The MSPF's experience and teamwork enabled swift, silent and deadly success.
"The teamwork between the security platoon and the Force Reconnaissance platoon is incredible," said SSgt. Oscar Chaney, security platoon's platoon sergeant. "We've done this type of mission several times together and the experience speaks volumes. We've gained the confidence of the force platoon by providing good external security, containment and allowing unimpeded movement to the objective. It also helps that we have a number of qualified 'shooters' in close-quarters combat on the team."
During the GOPLAT, the MSPF was called to secure a platform off the coast of California from known terrorist factions attempting to disrupt U.S. shipping. Unlike the DA mission, the MSPF had to perform a slow, methodical approach to secure an isolated objective. "When we landed on the small landing zone and took defensive positions, it wasn't long before the force platoon pushed through to secure the objective," said Cpl. Nicholas Isley, a 21-year-old team leader from St. Anne, Ill. "It feels pretty good knowing we provided some vital security to help the raid force complete the mission without interference."
USS Anchorage (LSD-36), one of the three ships in the Tarawa ARG, served as the platform to conduct a VBSS during FleetEx. In the mission scenario, 13th MEU's MSPF had to take control of the ship from oil smugglers. Once again, the MSPF answered the call and executed the mission within six hours.
"The most complicated part of these missions is putting the team together," said GySgt. Robert Doss, Force Recon's platoon sergeant. "We really have a great MSPF staff, and the cooperation from the squadron and other elements makes for a smooth operation. We were able to do our jobs proficiently because of the maturity and experience of the entire team."
FleetEx was 13th MEU's second chance to train for joint task force missions and operational assignments from a sea-based platform. 13th MEU also conducted several standard special operations missions; a total of 11 missions in 10 days. 13th MEU also conducted a crucial Supporting Arms Coordination Center exercise before its deployment.
One step closer to a special operations capable certification, 13th MEU stands ready to answer the nation's call, poised as the next MEU to deploy to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf regions.