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  • 13
  • Jan
  • 2016
Fires in Fuji

By Cpl. Janessa Pon, III Marine Expeditionary Force

COMBINED ARMS TRAINING CENTER CAMP FUJI, Japan -- Humvees crunch over a gravel road, bounding over bumps and dips before halting in a column facing a steep, distant, mountain. Marines had arrived at the staging area where they would prepare to conduct night-fire engagements. The sun set deep behind the mountain’s peak and the muzzle flash of weapons fire illuminated the otherwise blackness of night while machine gunners mounted on Humvees pierce the air with the thundering roar of the M2 .50 caliber machine gun.

Marines with Lima Co. 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force; and 1st Battalion 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II MEF, participated in a combined arms live-fire training event Jan. 7 on Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Gotemba, Japan. 

The training ensured the Marines from different combat elements were proficient in communicating and functioning together in combat conditions. 

“This training allows separate combat elements to come together and learn what we need from each other to function as a team,” said Cpl. Luke. G. Cardelli, a rifleman with Lima Co. “As Marines, we fight in every clime and place. We have to be fit to fight in any condition and environment. Here on CATC Fuji, we have the opportunity to function in a colder environment that differs from our usual surroundings.”  

CATC Fuji is a training area that provides a wide range of training opportunities to deployed operational military units. The available training programs range from professional military education to live fire combat training. Because of its location at the base of Mt. Fuji, service members also have the opportunity to face the challenges presented by the area’s climate and elevation. 

“CATC Fuji allows us to familiarize ourselves with previously unfamiliar conditions,” said Cardelli, an Auburn, Calif., native. “Fuji presents a mountainous and more austere training environment for us, since we hail from Camp Pendleton, where we don’t necessarily have winters this harsh or these types of mountainous open ranges to use for our live fire training. Because of its wide open training areas, we can incorporate more combat elements in our events.” 

A radio signal crackled and the vehicles made their way through the darkness to the top of the hill and opened fire. The rapid thuds of the M2 split the air into a series of piercing echoes, as machine gunners nested in the turrets of the vehicles went to work. 

“This training is important – top to bottom,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew J. Sladky, a rifleman with Lima Co. “It utilizes every asset from the light armored vehicles to the machine guns, heavy artillery and mortars. We don’t always get to see the big picture in everyday training, but this exercise and location gives us what we need to train together and gain a better perspective in working with other [entities].” 

The night sky lit up with an earsplitting explosion as an FGM-148 Javelin missile hurtled into the darkness downrange. The last rounds crackled in the shadows, and the vehicles backed down off of the hill. The night air remained punctuated by the deep shock of mortars in the distance. 

“This training really comes down to readiness,” said Sladky, a Wahoo, Nebraska, native. “While Mt. Fuji poses a challenge to the Marines out here, it has also brought us together and built us up to operate efficiently despite the harsh conditions. As our unit continues on to the next training site, we now have a greater capacity to function cohesively.” 

Exercise Fuji Samurai encompasses training in various offensive tactics as well as installation readiness, such as casualty evacuation, riot control and mission security in the Asia-Pacific region. The exercise is scheduled to continue through Jan. 15. 

"Just as Okinawa presents us with the ability to participate in jungle warfare training, some of CATC Fuji’s training facilities simulate larger-scale urban environments," said Cardelli. "It is another step in increasing our readiness to carry out our mission here in the Pacific. With this training, we can be ready for anything, anytime and anywhere."