U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY PO-2 JOHNNY MICHAEL
Marines whisked a man with simulated injuries to the awaiting CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter yesterday as part of the drill held on Kauai.
Marines practice embassy rescue
Amphibious exercises on and around Kauai employ helicopters and fast hovercraft
MANA, Kauai » As part of Rim of the Pacific exercises yesterday, Marines from California, Texas, Utah and Kaneohe stormed a National Guard facility on Kauai.
The facility represented an American embassy on hostile foreign soil, and women and men were volunteers playing the part of Americans hoping to be rescued in the RIMPAC's annual Non-combatant Evacuation Operation.
Yesterday, the Marines pulled the volunteers out of the facility and transferred all of them via helicopter to the USS Bonhomme Richard, waiting offshore, despite "enemy gunfire" and some explosions, including an improvised explosive device (large firecrackers and some smoke). The homemade bomb caused more than a dozen civilian casualties, so medical procedures were also tested.
The annual event at Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility is part of the training for Marine Expeditionary Units, specialized units of Marines tasked to rescue civilians around the world when the country they are in becomes too hostile.
While they make up less than 10 percent of the Marines' forces, they have the capabilities to reach any place within six days, said 2nd Lt. Binford Strickland, a public-affairs officer for the Marine Air Ground Task Force based in Kaneohe.
The Marine Expeditionary Units work hand in hand with the State Department and include helicopters for transport and air cover, light armored vehicles, as well as huge hovercraft that blasted onto the beach at Major's Bay, said Lt. Col. Frank Donovan, commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, from Camp Pendleton, Calif.
All the weaponry and command came from one ship -- in this case, the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship stationed off Kauai's west side yesterday, Donovan added.
A quarter of the Marines in this week's training rotated off service in Iraq, said Cpl. William Malona.
The Non-combatant Evacuation Operation provides "more broad training for general operations," Malona said, including work with nonmilitary personnel.
Pfc. Sam Brockett, another veteran from the Iraq war, said the objectives between the expeditionary units and those in Iraq are different.
"NEOs are a lot different" from Iraq, Brockett said. "It's good training for the younger guys."
In this week's exercise, the Kaneohe Marines provided the tactical support, and Marines from San Diego were the infantry units, patrolling the grounds and securing the embassy and an evacuation command center, Strickland added.