Thursday, April 30, 2009

LAR stands ready at sea

Story and photos by Lance Cpl. Robert C. Medina

The waters were calm as Marines with Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoon approached their vehicles chained to the deck of a Landing Craft Air Cushion vehicle (LCAC) in the lower section of USS Boxer (LHD 4). Vehicle hatches and hoods are muscled opened—the maintenance begins.

From the deserts of Iraq to the vast Indian Ocean, Marines with LAR, which is an attachment of Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are prepared for whatever m

ay come their way.

“My platoon was selected from amongst the battalion when we returned from Iraq in our last deployment,” said Gunnery Sgt. Thomas R. Johnson, platoon sergeant. “We have been a platoon for about 16 months now.”

Johnson, from Elbert, Col., said he only has four Marines who haven’t deployed before and as a whole, his M

arines are as skilled and professional as they come.

“We have been together for a while now and we have grown to know each other very well,” said Cpl. Jorge Rangel, gunner with LAR. “We know each other’s capabilities.”

This year the unit is with the 13th MEU, which is currently supporting counter-piracy operations off the coast of Africa. With this unique deployment comes unique care for their equipment.

“The biggest challenge and the difference for us being aboard ship rather than being on a land-based deployment, is the effect of the salt water on our vehicles,” said Johnson. “The metal is constantly rusting and corroding away, here we have to spend a lot more time conducting preventative maintenance on our vehicles.”

This maintenance is important for operations that could happen at a moment’s notice. Without proper working equipment, the platoon would be ineffective.

“If our vehicles are down then we are not going anywhere,” said Rangel, from San Jose, Calif.

Rangel said life on ship is very different from being on land, but it’s nothing they can’t overcome.

“On the squad level we do tactical decision games,” said Johnson. “Selected individuals do supporting arms training as well.”

The team leaders or vehicle commanders conduct rotary and fixed wing close air support training, as well as artillery and mortarmen training. The crewmen are involved in gunnery training that applies to their job field.

“It’s all stuff that we have done before, we are just sharpening our skills,” said Johnson.

LAR platoon is the main effort for surface TRAP operations (tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel), as well as the motorized r
aid element.

“A raid is, in essence, a pre-planned attack and a pre-planned withdr
awal. We serve as the motorized, light raid element,” continued Johnson.

“We go in and atta
ck what we are raiding, exploit it for information, then leave quickly.”

Traditional LAR tasks would be route area zone reconnaissance, support attacks and assaults.

“We could do a lot because of our skilled scouts and fire-power from our light armored vehicles,” said Johnson. “We have excellent communications and optics; we could call for air support, artillery or mortars, and could operate on our own for extended periods of time as long as we have the fuel.”

Johnson said logistically they are easy to support; the MEU can use them for just about anything.

“The back-bone of the MEU is the infantrymen, the line companies,” concluded Johnson. “Everything in the MEU is built on supporting ‘the grunt on the ground.’ We are part of that. We support his attack.”

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