Gulfport, Miss. --
Marines from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina participated as the partner nation forces for U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command’s Unit Readiness Exercise RAVEN 18-02 in the Gulf Coast region, Nov. 1-11.
Each fiscal year, MARSOC holds six RAVEN exercises designed to determine Marine Raider units’ deployment readiness. Nearby Marine units participate in these exercises to not only help the Marine Raider units, but to also receive valuable training from the special operations Marines.
In this RAVEN exercise, Marines from Marine Air Control Group-28 in MCAS Cherry Point and II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group in MCB Camp Lejeune participated as the partner nation force with the Marine Raiders.
“I thought that we would get here and run around and be the enemy,” said Lance Cpl. Guadalupe Fajardo, a weather forecaster with Marine Air Control Squadron 2.
Instead, she was placed into operations alongside the MARSOC critical skills operators where she learned techniques such as breaching, tactical collections and special reconnaissance. Fajardo’s fellow partner nation force member, Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Amador, military police officer with 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion, explained that after arriving at the RAVEN exercise his initial idea of his role changed.
“When we got here, I thought we were just going to do some role playing for the MARSOC guys,” said Amador. “Then we got a more in-depth explanation of what we would be doing with the teams including assisting them with operations, acting like members of a foreign military group, and receiving training from them.”
Depending on what operational requirements MARSOC teams were given during the exercise, the critical skills operators trained and instructed the Marines from the partner units on different techniques and tactics needed for them to help the team succeed. Such training consisted of close-quarter battle drills, fast roping and sensitive site exploitation.
“Close-quarter combat training is the most important training I feel we can receive,” said Amador. “You need to know your fire team and all their habits, because that is one of the most important things when clearing a room. Having cohesion and efficiency is important, especially for your point man who is going to take the first shots.”
Close-quarter combat drills were the most time consuming and most emphasized part of training because the Marines were continually tested on their ability in this technique during each operation.
“This is a group of Marines who hadn’t worked together before or in a unit like this in a while,” said a CSO. “We had to teach them how to figure out their strengths and weaknesses so they could work together as a cohesive unit.”
At training day five, Amador and Fajardo both said that getting a refresher in combat tactics was one of the best parts about the RAVEN exercise. For Fajardo, she really enjoyed being able to get in touch with her basic rifleman skills.
“With my job, I don’t really use my weapon except during annual training,” said Fajardo.
The last time she had done any sort of combat-style training was during Marine Combat Training after boot camp. She stated that the CSOs were great teachers and were very patient when instructing them on techniques.
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of figuring out the best way to instruct them,” said a CSO. “We forget when we work with infantry Marines all the time that not everyone has the same knowledge or skillset when it comes to combat training.”
Working with Marines from different job fields, like the group for RAVEN 18-02, challenged the CSOs during the training. They had to figure out different styles and techniques to help unify the eclectic mix of military occupational specialties found within their force, said a MARSOC mentor during the exercise.
“It really pushed the CSOs to focus on their leadership and mentorship, and the Marines could see the effort they put in to help them and they appreciated it,” said a mentor.
As RAVEN progressed, the Marines and CSOs continued to work together to accomplish their missions required of them and help prepare the CSOs for deployment. As the mentors evaluated the CSOs’ abilities and effectiveness, the CSOs assessed the Marines from the other units and provided feedback and further instruction as needed.
“We progressed so much throughout the exercise,” said Fajardo. “After each operation, we’d regroup and discuss sustains and improvements for each one. The CSOs then determined what training or instruction to provide so that we could improve the outcome next time.”
The MARSOC exercise branch chief explained that before the exercise, the supporting units from the Marine Expeditionary Force provided a list of desired training objectives to be accomplished, based off their unit’s training plan. The CSOs then determined the training program for the Marines and what skills might need remediation based on first time mission execution.
“The Marines progressed in strides,” said a CSO. “They gained confidence in their abilities to execute the missions and provide commanders with solutions to problems that could arise during these exercises. Even though they may not have come to RAVEN as a cohesive unit, they learned how to effectively work together and build the required trust in each other and unit cohesion needed to effectively execute the objective.”