Military

R.O.K. and U.S. Marines Strike by land, air and sea: 31st MEU completes KITP '10

US Marine Corps News

11/7/2009
By Lance Cpl. Michael A. Bianco, 31st MEU

Training with allied forces on foreign terrain introduces new obstacles and allows for the development of new war-fighting tactics, or the honing of existing doctrine specific to a region. Joint training also enables the sharing of tactics between U.S. service members and ally counterparts. Strength through unity is at the heart of this concept.

Military forces of allied nations training side-by-side enhances military interoperability and strengthens the allied fighting forces as a whole.

Through planning and close coordination between commanders and senior military officials from both the Republic of Korea (R.O.K.) Marine Corps and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), militaries from both nations executed Korean Incremental Training Program 2010 (KITP ‘10), Nov. 1-4.

“In any exercise like KITP, the major objectives are to increase interoperability and overall combat readiness of the participating forces. However, these exercises also present the opportunity to develop lasting personal and professional relationships,” said Col. Paul L. Damren, 31st MEU commanding officer.

The training evolution was comprised of the following key events: helicopter support team (HST) operations, mass casualty evacuation missions, an amphibious beach landing and an air-borne assault.

Service members from Landing Support Battalion, Amphibious Support Group, 1st R.O.K Marine Corps Division and Landing Support Platoon (LS Plt.), Combat Logistics Battalion 31 (CLB-31), 31st MEU, started the morning of Nov. 3, with classes explaining how each nation’s Marine Corps performed HST missions. The classes covered the roles and responsibilities of HST staff, their capabilities and limitations and safety considerations when employing HSTs, said U.S. Marine Capt. Jeampierre Bermeo.

After the classes, the Marines headed to the landing zone for a demonstration. U.S. Marines demonstrated the HST techniques on a CH-46E Sea Knight Helicopter from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 Reinforced (HMM-265 REIN), 31st MEU.

During the HST scenario the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter hovered about 20 feet above R.O.K. and CLB-31 Marines, waiting for a cargo net full of supplies to be linked to a load-baring cable attached to the underside of the helicopter for an external lift.

“Everyone was eager to learn and show each other their operating procedures for external lifts,” said U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Kimberly Dupak, LS Plt. commander. “It also helped build and strengthen operational relationships between the R.O.K. and U.S. Marine Corps.”

Maj. Hyung-Kyu Park, operations officer for Landing Support Battalion, Amphibious Support Group, 1st R.O.K. Marine Corps Division, echoed the Chatham, New Jersey native saying, “It was very encouraging to see the knowledge and skill showcased during the training.”

Simultaneously, at a nearby training area, corpsmen from 1st R.O.K. Marine Corps Division and CLB-31 executed a mass casualty evacuation exercise.

The scenario was designed to test R.O.K. and U.S. forces response to a mock improvised explosive device (IED) that incurred casualties and damaged an ambulance. Doctors and Corpsmen were air-lifted to the site by a CH-53E Super Stallion and a CH-46E Sea Knight, both helicopters from HMM-265 REIN. The “docs” treated the patients then evacuated them from the blast site.

“The objective of the corpsmen was to rapidly assess, treat immediate life threatening injuries, triage and evacuate the patients,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Boyce R. Gire, headquarters platoon commander, CLB-31.

As both nations’ logistical elements were finishing the scenarios, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, the ground combat element (GCE) of the 31st MEU, was preparing for its part in the exercise.

As the sun breached the horizon coloring the morning sky in a reddish hue, amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) from Company E (Co. E), BLT 2/5, launched from the forward-deployed transport dock ship USS Denver and surged through the frigid waters off the coast of Pohang, Republic of Korea, Nov. 4.

Once ashore, 210 Marines exited the vehicles and formed a defensive perimeter while two landing craft air cushions (LCAC) carrying humvees and light armored vehicles (LAV) followed suit.

“We were able to carry out the mission in a swift, tactical and safe manner while successfully bringing our assets ashore,” said U.S. Marine Capt. David Wright, Co. E commander and Goldsboro, N.C. native.

The BLT 2/5 Marines and sailors who participated in the exercise gained insight and a better understanding of amphibious landings, said U.S. Marine Maj. Conlon Carabine, operations officer for BLT 2/5.

“Amphibious warfare is the most complex and difficult form of operations, and conducting an amphibious operation with an allied partner adds additional significant complications.” The East Hampton, N.Y. native went on to say, “These exercises must be practiced in order to execute them well. The training value gained was invaluable and the success of the operation is a testament to the abilities of our Marines and sailors from both countries.”

However, the GCE was not the only force making noise that day.

For the roar of an AH-1W Super Cobra assault helicopter rotor blades chopping through the air overhead signaled the onset of an air assault. The Cobras provided cover-fire for one CH-53E Super Stallion and four CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters to land and unload 82 R.O.K. Marines in a patchy, dried-up river bed, Nov. 4.

Once on the ground, the R.O.K. Marines exploded out the helicopters, dashing to nearby brush for concealment; while HMM-265 REIN provided air support for the R.O.K. Marines.

According to Lt. Col. Christopher Taylor, HMM-265 (REIN) commander, the “Dragons” also supplied a mix of CH-46E, CH-53E, AH-1W, and UN-1N helicopters, combat service support, air command and control equipment and more than 245 Marines and sailors for air support.

“The ACE was able to experience a cultural and tactics exchange symposium and finished with a bilateral helicopter-borne assault,” the West Plains, Mo. native said. “Everyone was very proficient and professional, as well as personable during the exercise.”

Due to good planning and solid execution, the entire evolution was a huge success, according to Park.

“It’s imperative that our forces are constantly working together to better prepare us for real world situations, where we could find ourselves fighting alongside one another,” Park said. “Even though we are different geographically, we still have the same goals.”

The bilateral exercise proved to be successful for R.O.K. and U.S. service members, but also presented the opportunity to establish closer relations with R.O.K. Marines, according to Damren.

The North Belgrade, Maine native said, “During KITP, there were several social events scheduled in addition to the field training events that allowed us to get to know our R.O.K. Navy and Marine Corps counterparts on a personal level. These events helped us develop a level of camaraderie, esprit de corps and cohesion that is every bit as important, if not more so, than basic tactical proficiency.”

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