NATIONAL TRAINING CENTER FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- The life of a Battalion Landing Team can be easily tracked by observation. Beginning with raid courses early in the pre-deployment work-up cycle, the BLT takes baby steps, slowly moving into a crawl. With less than one month before deployment with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the Marines of Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, have reached a sprint.
Most recently, Kilo Company conducted a Long Range Helicopter-borne Raid as part of Joint Task Force Exercise criteria during the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s third and final at-sea
period in preparation for an upcoming Western Pacific Deployment.
Hitting a small village in the arid valleys of National Training Center Fort Irwin, Kilo Company squashed a notional insurgency in short time, ending with a tactical retrograde to the decks of the USS Bonhomme Richard.
The company’s growth began in mid-October 2006, when they participated in the Special Operations Training Group’s Helicopter Raid Course. Throughout the work-ups cycle, Kilo Company Marines have conducted many ship-to-shore raids, each time tweaking and adjusting procedures and tactics. The constant rehearsal and practice has brought the company now to a high level of operational readiness.
“We’re 100 percent better,” said Capt. Thomas Elders, Kilo Company commander. Elders and his Marines make up a unique air-to ground asset within the MEU, the only company steeped thus far in helicopter doctrine.
“Obviously we still have stuff to work on,” he said. “Just because we finished the raid doesn’t mean the show’s over.”
The company cannot conduct helicopter raids on its own. Aircraft and tactical support is additionally provided by Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Rein). With the signature “Evil Eyes” painted on the nose of their birds, HMM-163 swoops Marines from offshore positions into hot landing zones and provides close air support during the mission. Air support can be utilized to call in Hellfire Missiles and 25mm high-explosive gun runs, along with strafing missions from AV-8B Harrier Jets and KC-130J gun ships.
As the 13th MEU makes its final preparations for deployment, heavy hitters like Kilo Company stand ready to take the war on terror straight to the enemy, coming down from the clouds and spreading “death from above.”
For more information on Kilo Company, and the warriors of the Fighting 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.