FORT STORY, Virginia — Marines with Alpha Company, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, conducted soft-duct insertion operations aboard Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia, June 16, 2015.
The company was flown from Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, to Fort Story on two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters. From there, they were taken 18 miles off the shore of Virginia, where they then inserted four Zodiac inflatable boats.
“There were two CH-53Es with the Marines on board and two AH-1Ws (Cobra) helicopters as escort support,” said Capt. Thomas Wallin, the company commander. “Once out of the bird, the Marines had 20 nautical miles to navigate before they got to shore.”
Once at the insertion site, four Zodiacs, two on each helicopter, were kicked out the back, followed by the Marines. The Marines then swam to the boats and boarded them.
“Once they were inserted, the Marines had to navigate through international shipping lanes and then to shore, where they would carry on the rest of their reconnaissance and surveillance mission,” said Wallin.
The Marines conducted the insertions in the late hours of the day, with little natural light, to help conceal them.
“One of the advantages of doing the insert at night is that there is less visibility, therefore making it harder to detect us,” said Wallin. “Our boats are small enough as it is, we can shut our engines off and paddle in.”
Adding to the cover and concealment, the Marines were inserted in international waters to reduce the threat of being picked up by radar. International waters range anywhere from 12-24 miles off the coast of a country.
“We insert and offset far enough away to be safe,” said Wallin. “It allows us to go in undetected and get to the objective.”
The insertion was part of a four-day reconnaissance and surveillance mission. Throughout the four days, the Marines were responsible for observing and gathering intelligence from three separate sites, all while staying undetected.