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Exercise Sandfisher opening doors for U.S., Singapore

US Marine Corps News

By Lance Cpl. Harley Thomas | March 9, 2015

Marines with Bravo Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, joined members of the Underwater Demolition Group with Singapore's Naval Diving Unit, to exchange dive tactics and training Feb. 27, 2015 in one of the School of Infantry-West classrooms in building 223 aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The training was part of Exercise Sandfisher, an annual exercise that provides hands-on experience for Okinawa-based Marines specializing in combatant diving; small-boat operations; underwater navigation; high-altitude, high-opening parachuting and ground reconnaissance tactics. This year, the exercise also provided an opportunity for the Marines to conduct bilateral training with Singapore's Navy.

"We've been showing (the NDU) our capabilities, limitations and planning process to give them a general overview of how reconnaissance Marines operate," said Capt. Richard Laszok, the Bravo Co. commander with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. "We showed them what we could bring to the table in any future partnership during exercises or partnered operations."

Laszok said the focus of the exchange was to look at the tactics, techniques, planning and procedures of each group. He said exercises such as these support a portion of the U.S. Pacific Command commander's campaign to maintain friendly relationships with other nations within the PACOM area of responsibility.

"Every Marine who participated got something out of this and it has certainly increased our reconnaissance proficiency," Laszok said. "This exercise gave us an opportunity to work closely with our counterparts and it's important we do, (so we may further) foster our partnership with Singapore's military and better understand what they're capable of."

Maj. Gen. James S. Hartsell, the mobilization assistant to the PACOM commander, said there is a great relationship between the two nations' militaries because of the work the U.S. has done with Singapore over the years.

"Sharing our knowledge and tactics like this only betters our relationship with Singapore," Hartsell said. "This partnership improves because we now know more about each other. We understand them more, and they better understand us. Coming together like this improves our communication and, in turn, our ability to execute together."

Hartsell said the 3rd Recon. Marines might work with the NDU in the future, so it's important to have the opportunity to sit down, face-to-face, in order to share their tactics and techniques, increasing the proficiency of both units.

"It's great for our Marines to see what other military services do," Hartsell said. "Members with the NDU show us what they go through for their specific diving or reconnaissance skill sets, and we get to see the similarities. Our Marines get to see Singapore's proficiency and quality of the dive unit, and know they are like that because of their training. It validates what our Marines have been through to get to where they are today."

Hartsell said as soon as he heard Singapore was training with the U.S., he wanted to physically come out and show them how important they are as a partner. He said he wanted to show support for members of Singapore's NDU and reconnaissance Marines, and each unit benefited from the exchange.

"The U.S. is a very valuable partner to us, not only for the NDU, but for the Singapore armed forces as a whole," said Lt. Col. Francis Goh, the commanding officer for the UDG. "We're always happy to share our real world experience and learn from each other. By reaching out, we are able to keep ourselves relevant and maintain our ability to build a competent and professional military force."

Goh said because today's world is so interconnected, it is important to maintain these ties so, when they need to call upon a friend for help, they have links they are able to utilize.

"This exercise allowed us to continue to build interoperability between the two countries and, at the same time, maintain the kind of relationship that is important in today's world," Goh said. "I just want to thank the Marines, and I appreciate all the help they have given us. They have really helped my divers but, while my members did do a good job, they need to remember to stay sharp and stay open so they may continue to learn. I hope this relationship between the U.S. and Singapore will continue, (with) this trust and understanding, where we can learn and share openly as we move toward the future."

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