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Exercise Iron Fist brings two nations together

US Marine Corps News

2/17/2012 By Lance Cpl. Timothy Childers, 15th MEU

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Amphibious Squadron 3 and Japanese Ground Self Defense Force debarked from the USS Peleliu, Feb. 13, marking the end of Exercise Iron Fist 2012. After finishing the last training event, the servicemembers packed their gear and headed back to Camp Pendleton.

Exercise Iron Fist 2012 is the seventh iteration of the bilateral training event between the Marine Corps and JGSDF. The exercise is a tribute to the U.S./Japanese relationship and provides a unique opportunity for Marines and sailors to train with an important Pacific ally on U.S. soil. Building on the Marine Corps’ existing friendship with the JGSDF, the exercise provided invaluable training for the 15th MEU and its Naval partner, Phibron 3, in preparation for their upcoming deployment.

The exercise was separated into four phases: planning, embarkation, execution of amphibious exercises and debarkation.

In phase one, the units planned the training and developed the prerequisite skills and proficiency they would need to accomplish a safe and effective training evolution on San Clemente Island. All three services were involved in the on-going staff exercise in a combat operations center that organized the entire training evolution.

The first event was scheduled days before the opening ceremony, kicking off the exercise with a head start. Boat training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado was designed to familiarize the soldiers with combat rubber raiding crafts (CRRC, pronounced ‘cricks’). The CRRC training was followed by landing craft air cushion and landing craft utility familiarization exercises, combined arms training, designed to build confidence in Japanese soldiers and their weapons, helocasting off the coast by reconnaissance Marines and Japanese Rangers and a live-fire and maneuver exercise that combined all elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force.

Throughout phase one, members of the 15th MEU Command Element, Phibron 3 and the JGSDF, with their attachments, conducted individual and combined training that ensured a realistic and safe training experience.

Phase two involved the embarkation of all required personnel and equipment aboard the USS Peleliu. The logistical support needed for phase two was accomplished by the logisticians from each of the respective commands. More than 500 Marines and sailors from Camp Pendleton and more than 100 Japanese soldiers, including their equipment and gear, went underway during the exercise. Great care and skill was needed to ensure enough personnel and equipment was embarked to complete the culminating events on San Clemente Island.

During phase three, elements of the MAGTF conducted a ship-to-shore landing of San Clemente Island. Reconnaissance Marines and Japanese Rangers helocasted from Marine helicopters the night of Feb. 11 and secured an area for Marines from 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion and soldiers from the JGSDF to land via helicopter insertion the next day. Once they hit ground, the Marines and soldiers pushed inland following a main supply route. The servicemembers then conducted a live-fire exercise, where mortars were fired as Naval gunfire support was given by the USS Chancellorville.

While the troops were on the island, the flight deck of the USS Peleliu was busy with flight operations. The aviation combat element, including HMM-364, conducted flight operations and deck landing qualifications for CH-53E Super Stallion, CH-46 Sea Knight and the UH-1Y helicopters.

Phase four began once the exercise on San Clemente Island was complete, which involved leaving the island and debarking the USS Peleliu. Through the use of Landing Craft Utilities, CH-46 Sea Knights and CH-53E Super Stallions, the participants debarked to Camp Pendleton, all accounted for.

Throughout the exercise, the 15th MEU was able to strengthen its amphibious capabilities and build upon the solid working relationship with the JGSDF and PHIBRON 3 further enhancing its interoperability and effectiveness of the MAGTF, as it prepares for deployment scheduled for this summer.

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