FIVE HILLS TRAINING AREA, Mongolia --
Pounding boots on dusty gravel roads conjured up dust devils as platoons from six nations marched toward the proving grounds of Five Hills Training Area, Mongolia, Aug. 1 to begin the first day of the Field Training Exercise portion of Exercise Khaan Quest 2011.
U.S. Marines, alongside soldiers from Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Korea, and Mongolia took part in the training which included the Mongolian Armed Forces obstacle course, a martial arts exchange and a live fire range featuring various weapons used by the participating nations.
“We’ve had a lot of participants from different countries, which is really impressive,” said Maj. Myagmaraj Dorj, operations officer for Unit 311, Peace Support Operations Training Center, Mongolian Armed Forces.
Service members from different countries said the range was their favorite event of the day because they were able to fire weapons they had never handled before.
“Today we conducted the live fire shooting and exercise and, for me, that’s the most exciting part of the field training exercise so far,” Dorj said. “All of the countries are doing a very good job on the range.”
Arsenals of weapons were available for firing during the exercise to include the Mongolian AK-47 automatic rifle, the RPK light machine gun and the MPK heavy machine gun. The Marines supplied M-4 service rifles, M249 squad automatic weapons and M203 grenade launchers. The Mongolian Armed Forces also granted four Marines the chance to shoot rocket propelled grenades.
One of the most impressive performances of the day came from the soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Sikh Regiment, Indian Army. The AK-47 is their primary battle weapon and their proficiency with the rifle was obvious.
“I was really impressed with the Sikh Regiment,” said Sgt. Dane Riddle, lane one firing point primary instructor, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. “They were disciplined and had very few shots off target.”
Riddle said the other countries did well too, especially since some of them had never touched an AK-47 before.
“All of the countries who came through today did a very good job,” he said. “They all gained at least a minimum proficiency with all of the weapons.”
Riddle added that the Mongolians’ experience with live fire ranges and safety was a staple that made the range successful.
“The Mongolians run a very safe range and they’re really similar to the Marine Corps’ ranges,” Riddle said. “I didn’t see any problems with them at all.”
Each country also tried their hand at martial arts, where they learned peace keeping and compliance techniques under the instruction of Cpl. Aaron Garay and Sgt. Edward Wisniewski. Several Republic of Korea soldiers had a chance to show their skills as well.
“The Republic of Korea soldiers had some pretty cool techniques that took a few of our brown belt level moves to a whole new level,” said Wisniewski, a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor with 1st Bn., 11th Marines.
Khaan Quest participants were also challenged by the Mongolian Armed Forces obstacle course, which is approximately twice as long as a standard Marine Corps obstacle course. One of the most difficult obstacles was a balance beam suspended nearly eight feet from the ground. Soldiers and Marines had to jump a three-foot gap in the beam to continue the course.
Riddle said Khaan Quest, and especially the field training exercise, was one of the best exercises he’s ever had the opportunity to participate in.
“Khaan Quest as a whole is a pretty cool opportunity for Marines to get out and do all kinds of peace keeping operations training,” he said. “Overall, it’s going pretty well and all the Marines seem like they’re really into it. So far, it’s been a really good time.”
Now that the first segment of the field training exercise is over, Dorj is looking forward to the coming events.
“We are going to continue to execute this training the best we can, and I know everything will go smoothly,” Dorj said. “I would like to express my appreciation from the Mongolian soldiers to the U.S. Pacific Command for co-organizing this exercise and to all of those who are participating with us.”
The next part of the field training exercise is a week-long lane training event. The participating countries will complete seven lanes of training, one per day, which will provide instruction and practical application on how to counter improvised explosive devices, execute convoy operations, perform combat medical treatment and other valuable skills.