Splashing ashore on amphibious vessels and touching down amidst the rotor wash of transport helicopters, Hawaii-based Marines and coalition forces from seven nations arrived at Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA), Hawaii, July 15
during the biennial, multinational Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010.
The training they conducted at PTA provided the Corps an opportunity for integration and interoperability with coalition forces.
In the larger picture, the training is being used to enhance regional security and build a task force ready to respond to a broad spectrum of crises.
Regardless of the pattern of their camouflaged uniforms, living, sweating and training together provides a unique opportunity for all involved parties.
"The interaction with other nations' militaries is very beneficial,"
said Master Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Masters, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment's operations chief. "Working alongside someone from another organization helps build learning on both."
Examples of this mutual gain can be found in the engagement and relations between the coalition partners. Canadian soldiers use many of the same weapons and processes as their U.S. Marine counterparts but these assets aren't carbon copies. "In accordance with these small differences, finding out how the different coalition partners' gear works and comparing tactics, techniques and drills is a learning experience," said Candain Army Capt. Marshal Gerbrandt, forward observation officer, K Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment.
Whether by new gear, fresh perspectives or a joint service environment, the brief stint at PTA during RIMPAC proved valuable to all participating parties.
"Training with the Marines has allowed us to expose our guys to things we usually don't have access to, such as amphibious assault vehicles and different aircraft," said Australian Army 1st Lt. Rory Morse, Joint Fires Team Two, 108th Battery, 4th Field Regiment. "Getting out of our normal regiment and into a broader environment gives us a better understanding of our coalition partners and how to best work with them."
Boasting a large and accessible training area, PTA is a superior stage for the combined forces to execute a variety of interoperability missions. During their stay on the big island, the coalition forces plan to conduct numerous live-fire ranges tailored off the Lava Viper training block conducted at PTA as part of Hawaii-based infantry battalions' pre-deployment training requirements.
Rifle companies comprised of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Marines and coalitions partners plan to focus on squad-level training, utilizing a squad assault range to increase infantry skills and an unknown distance rifle range to further marksmanship proficiency. A machine gun familiarization range allows the coalition's partners to attain interoperability between weapons systems.
"Interoperability is the most important part of the exercise," said Gerbrandt, of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada. "A lot of our guys haven't been involved in the types of ranges PTA offers, so this gives them a good opportunity for more practice.
Beside the aforementioned ranges, the rifle companies are scheduled to conduct room clearing in a live action shoot house.
"Time on the ranges comes as a big reward for the Marines after months of intensive pre-deployment training," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Soto, a platoon sergeant with E Company, 2/3.
"The live range shoot house will be a good wake-up call for the Marines, said Soto, of New York City, N.Y. "We don't get to shoot live rounds in a situation like that often. For one, it provides a reality check and secondly, it forces them to exercise good weapon and fire discipline."
Coalition augments plan to team with artillery support from 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, and mortar fire support from 2/3 Weapons Company to comprise fire support coordination teams. "These FiST teams, tasked with the mission of putting firepower on an objective before the infantry company goes in to neutralize the objective, will practice call for fires and coordinating air strikes with artillery and mortar fire."
Marine-led sniper teams with integrated coalition forces will utilize the mountainous terrain and high altitudes to practice highly technical sniper fire. "It gives us all some different experiences and tools to draw from," Gerbrandt said.
In addition to providing the battalion a unique opportunity to learn how to plan and coordinate events over large distances, RIMPAC has given the Hawaii-based Marines the opportunity to experience and overcome culture and language barriers, a skill they'll utilize in coming months.
"When the Marines deploy, they'll deal with training Afghans," said Masters, of Denver. "Dealing with foreign troops here is beneficial to our squad and fire team leaders because it helps them learn the patience to deal with non-English speaking troops."
In early August, following PTA, the 2/3 Marines are scheduled to participate in the Enhanced Mojave Viper training exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms, Calif. The battalion is slated for a late 2010 deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.