MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Two AH-1W Super Cobras make several passes above the simulated crash site before giving the CH-53E Super Stallion carrying Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel Marines the go-ahead to descend. As the loud-thundering blades of the Super Stallion lifts debris from the ground, its rear hatch opens and the mission of the TRAP Force begins.
The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit's TRAP team wrapped up its two week Helicopter TRAP Course here, Jan. 31, with plenty of lessons learned.
According to Staff Sgt. Stephen R. Marshall, chief TRAP instructor, Special Operations Training Group, the first week of the course was spent in the classroom covering everything from mission planning and equipment to mission execution.
"The second week the Marines are given back-to-back missions during day and night," said Marshall.
The mission of the TRAP team can range from personnel recovery to destruction of downed aircraft upon recovery of the aircrews, said Marshall.
The TRAP force consists of 22 Marines and two corpsmen, all of whom are capable of fast roping into a mission site. Added personnel with specific training such as demolitions also allow the team to complete missions that may require destroying an aircraft.
According to Marshall, the Marines are given a variety of mission scenarios ranging from performing missions in different terrains to completing missions in a nuclear biological chemical threat area.
The learning curve for the course is extremely steep, according to participants.
"The instructors throw a lot of stuff at you in the two weeks," said 23-year-old Cpl. Robert M. Ruiz, team leader, TRAP Force, 13th MEU. "The course is very realistic. I've learned that accountability of your Marines and gear and rehearsals are very important."
The scenarios begin fairly simple with no enemy present and rapidly increase in difficulty with the last exercise being in a mountain environment. Marines taking the course found the fast pace challenging.
"Having to learn that way forces you to remember the information a lot easier and it forces you to pay close attention to the instructors," said Lancaster native Sgt. Jared J. Lovell, team leader, TRAP Force, 13th MEU.
According to 1st Lt. Ed D. Hinman, TRAP Force platoon commander, the instructors at SOTG are doing a good job challenging the Marines.
"They are putting them in difficult situations forcing them to really think and use initiative," said Hinman.
According to Marshall, the Marines are answering the instructors' challenge.
"This unit is being extremely proactive and the MEU is also being extremely proactive by giving extra guidance and assistance. They are really preparing themselves for the eventuality that they would have to do these missions," said Marshall.