FAST Marines in Haiti sharpen skills
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A short, stocky man code-named “Indian” is suspected of hoarding weapons and drugs at his home for his trafficking business. There are others based at the home, armed men and likely women and children.
With that information, U.S. Marines from 7th Platoon, 2nd FAST Company raided the home during a training exercise Saturday aimed at keeping their skills sharp while deployed to Haiti.
“By far, this is the most realistic training we can get,” said Cpl. Ross Domingos, 20.
And Cpl. Jason Romlein, 27, got a chance to refresh skills of his military police dog, Baro, whose bark and threat of bite convinced the two suspects, played by fellow Marines from the team, to disclose where they’d hidden the cash, weapons and drugs.
“The goal today is to prepare to be [ready to operate from a helicopter] and ready to support any ground operations,” said Cpl. Adam Rasin, 23, of Baltimore, Md.
The 50-some members from the Marine Corps’ Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team, or FAST, from Yorktown, Va., arrived Feb. 22 after U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, James Foley, asked the Pentagon to provide added embassy security.
They’re part of the Corps’ Quick Reaction Force, ready to respond at a moment’s notice while deployed in Haiti, and when stateside, ready to respond to any point on the globe within 24 hours and to be self-sufficient for 30 days.
But since the arrival of thousands of infantry Marines, the FAST team has been pretty much consigned to being a backup force in case something goes wrong for the other Marines patrolling Port-au-Prince neighborhoods and other regions in Haiti.
“Why are we still here? That’s the big question for us, too,” said Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Conroy, 22, of Worcester, Mass.
Company Commander Capt. Bryce Armstrong said the need for them to be there is great: The nation still is not fully secure, and they might be needed or to bail out others who might need them.
For the few raid missions they had done weeks ago, the FAST Marines coordinate and work with the National Haitian Police.
But to keep the Marines occupied and sharp, they train, such as with Saturday’s raid, in which they practiced rapid disembarks in full “deuce” gear — vest, weapons and Kevlar — from a CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk, holding a perimeter, securing buildings and interrogating prisoners.
Formed in 1987, the Corps’ FAST Marines are trained for quick in-and-out and security missions, and were used for security against incursions on U.S. Navy installations in Panama, in 1991 to secure Navy assets in Bahrain and the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia, in 1994 to secure a U.S. mission in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope, in 1996 for security after the terrorist bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, in 1998 to secure two U.S. embassies Kenya and Tanzania after bombings, and in April 2000 in Yemen after the bombing of the USS Cole.
The Corps has three companies, two stationed in Yorktown, Va., one in Norfolk, Va., but is developing more. Instead of seven platoons, future companies will have five platoons each.
The FAST Marines receive more extensive training than infantry troops, said Lance Cpl. Michael Roy, of Fort Myers, Fla.
“We have to shoot ‘double-expert,’ meaning rife and pistol, and decision-making is at the lowest level, down to the individual level,” Roy said.