By Lance Cpl. Stephen Campbell, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan
U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, based out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, arrived at Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Japan, June 15, 2017, to participate in exercise Eagle Wrath 2017.
Eagle Wrath 2017, a two-week training evolution, focuses on air base ground defense, establishing forward operating bases, and forward arming and refueling points in an austere environment to support Marine Aircraft Group 12 during future deployments.
Known as “The Sentinels,” MWSS-171’s mission is to provide all essential aviation-ground support requirements to a designated fixed-wing component of an aviation combat element and all supporting or attached elements of the Marine Air Control Group.
What makes this year’s Eagle Wrath exercise unique is the emphasis on realistic training. The exercise focuses on the unpredictability of real-world operations and challenges the Marines’ and sailors’ readiness.
“Doing realistic training requires only a select handful of individuals to know what the enemy is doing in any given time,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Christopher Schaub, the operations officer and executive officer of MWSS-171. “We don’t often know how the air tasking is going to play out until the night of or the day of that indicates how many aircraft are coming in per day and what type of aircraft.”
Schaub said Eagle Wrath 2017 is focused around being self sufficient and having a 100 percent tactical mindset.
This proved to be true when two surprise massive casualty drills sprung up the first morning of the exercise. Marines and Corpsmen rushed to assess the situation thinking there were real casualties because they had no knowledge that it was a training scenario.
“We’re checking the Marines’ courses of action and seeing how they react to certain scenarios to make sure they are ready for any contact in the near future,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Niamke Carrington, a metal worker with MWSS-171. “We’re also checking to see how medical reacts in coalition with the Marines to make sure they are working in a fluid manner.”
Carrington said very few knew about the drills and that some were stunned about what happened, but it was all to show how anything can happen at any given moment during a deployment.
“You never know when something is going to happen, how it can happen or how it affects those around you,” said Carrington. “Accountability is a big deal as well as making sure everybody is where they are supposed to be, when they need to be there if something is happening, and making sure you react the way you’re supposed to.”
The drills taught the Marines and sailors leadership skills, initiative and how to control their emotions.
“It was supposed to simulate setting up, touching down and having something go wrong in the process even though you’re not expecting it,” said Carrington.
Although the first day consisted of massive casualty drills, the squadron is set to encounter simulated enemies and improvised explosive devices during patrols, conduct fire drills, deploy quick reaction forces and establish forward operating bases and forward arming and refueling points with little to no time to prepare for each training scenario as a way to increase the squadron’s readiness during a real deployment.