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Raiders retake simulated pirated vessel

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Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s maritime raid force boarded a simulated hijacked vessel off Southern California’s San Clemente Island during a training exercise here Sept. 7.

The assault force launched from USS New Orleans on Navy rigid-hulled inflatable boats, executing counterpiracy and counterterrorism techniques – visiting, boarding, searching and seizing the seagoing vessel.

“It’s important to know that we have a plan in place in the event someone takes over a ship. We are prepared to take it back and return it to its rightful owners without harming innocent personnel on board.” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Wilbert Haverly, MEU operations chief.

Pilots with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 (Reinforced) – the unit’s aviation combat element – flew two CH-46E Sea Knights, one UH-1Y Huey Venom with snipers on board, two AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, and two AV-8B Harriers. The Navy supported the mission by flying an MH-60S Seahawk search-and-rescue helicopter.

Marines seized weapons and apprehended role players portraying pirates and returned the vessel to its owner.

“The Marines and sailors performed exceptionally well during this dynamic and complex evolution,” said Maj. Anthonol L. Neely, the maritime raid force’s commanding officer and Nashville native. “The mission was another example of teamwork at every level, and I have every confidence that if called upon in theater, we’ll be ready for tasking.”

The unit embarked the amphibious assault ship Makin Island and the amphibious transport dock New Orleans Sept. 1 in San Diego, beginning a second sea-based exercise since becoming a complete Marine air-ground task force in May. The unit is scheduled to deploy this fall.

Article by Sgt. Elyssa Quesada, 11th MEU