POHANG, Republic of Korea -- A team of U.S. Marines with 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force worked side-by-side with Republic of Korea Marines from 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division the third week of March, as part of Korea Marine Exercise Program 17-6.
The training began on March 14, with jump orientation using the ROK Marines’ canopy flight simulator. The Marines strapped into a harness almost identical to their own, along with virtual reality glasses. The simulator glasses allowed the Marines to see each other so they could properly stack up and land where they needed to.
“(The simulator) is definitely a good tool if you haven’t jumped for a while,” said U.S. Marine Cpl. Alex Thill, an assistant radio operator. “It helps you practice procedures and things like that.”
Next, the Marines gathered at Josari drop zone, ROK, to execute parachute operations from a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook. This is the only joint, bilateral training during KMEP 17-6.
“It was really cool,” said U.S. Marine Cpl. Justin Morrall, a squad automatic weapon gunner from Denver, Colorado. “We would all get on to the plane and be sitting across from each other. We didn’t speak the same language but we would be giving each other fist bumps on the way out.”
“All the support they gave us was really great,” said ROK Marine Gunnery Sgt. Nam Yoon Kim, a jumpmaster with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion.
The U.S. and ROK Marines fed off of each other’s motivation. The ROK Marines cooked lunch for everyone and traded their MREs with the U.S. Marines for dinner.
At the end of each day, when the sun started to set, the U.S. and ROK Marines sat together and shared stories from their time in the Marine Corps.
The U.S. Recon Marines have been several places and have trained with many militaries, but they said noticed something in the ROK Marines that truly set them apart.
“They were extremely professional and very friendly,” said Thill, a Mitchell, South Dakota native. “They helped us out in almost every way.”
For every training event the Marines' participated in, safety was a top priority.
Approved precautions were taken to ensure the safety of the local community and the Marines taking part in the training. Before the start of the training, the jumpmasters met to figure out what commands they would give so everyone was informed and safe throughout the events.
“I think across the board both of us made sure that the safety of all the jumpers was the most important thing,” said Staff Sgt. Xavier Ovando, the platoon sergeant from Los Angeles, California. “Everyone’s on the same page as far as making sure everyone is rigged up properly and it’s a safe jump for everybody.”
This training highlighted the two countries’ combined commitment to the defense of the ROK and our shared commitment to peace and security in the region.
“It was a great opportunity to train,” said Kim. “I’m always ready to go with the U.S. Armed Forces, any time, any climb.”