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9th ESB departs for Forest Light

US Marine Corps News

2/18/2011 By Cpl. Justin R. Wheeler, Marine Corps Bases Japan

NAHA MILITARY PORT, OKINAWA, Japan — Marines from 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, boarded a High Speed Vessel and departed to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to begin Exercise Forest Light Feb. 15.

Forest Light is an annual bilateral exercise between U.S. service members and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel.

“It’s important to go down range with them and understand how they operate on a small-arms level,” said Capt. Thomas Tilque, battalion operations officer for Forest Light. “It will allow us to work better in case we (deploy together) to defend Japan”

Throughout the training, both forces will develop a better understanding of each other through conducting basic platoon-level infantry skills like small arms tactics, improvised explosive device training and live-fire exercises.

“If you put two groups of people together that don’t speak the same language but know the basics, then they can work together and forge those ties without depending on verbal communications,” said Tilque.

Although 9th ESB is an engineering battalion, they will operate as an infantry unit during the exercise.

“It’s a good opportunity for Marines,” said Tilque. “It’s good practice for when they go to Afghanistan.”

The exercise will also allow the Marines to gain more appreciation for operating in cold weather environments and become comfortable with cold-weather gear, said Tilque.

“Marines are issued many items and seldom use them,” said Tilque. “It’s a good opportunity for them to employ their cold weather gear.”

Marines with 9th ESB are excited and prepared for the exercise.

“Whether it’s a cold weather environment or whatever the circumstance, Marines can adapt and do their job,” said Lance Cpl. Jarrett Stelin, a food service specialist. “We’re always combat ready. This is what we do.”

During the exercise, the Marines will also be invited to spend liberty with their Japanese counterparts to build camaraderie and become accustomed to cultural differences. The exercise is scheduled to run through early March.

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