OKINAWA, Japan --
U.S. Marines with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, currently attached to 4th Marine Regiment under the Unit Deployment Program, departed Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III to participate in exercise Iron Sky Nov. 4, 2021.
Iron Sky is an exercise that challenges the capabilities of Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations. EABO is a form of expeditionary warfare that involves the employment of mobile, low-signature, and easy to maintain and sustain naval expeditionary force to conduct sea denial, support sea control, or enable fleet sustainment. The Marine Corps relies on exercises like Iron Sky to strengthen force protection and expand the capabilities of Marines in the Pacific.
“We are testing the capabilities that we can take a small force to an isolated area and be able to secure it in a rapid manner,” said U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Robert Stauffer, a platoon sergeant with 3rd LAR. “Our mission is to come from the defensive position. We are working off of limited information in an isolated area and seeing exactly how we are able to defend it.”
This mission falls inline with Marine Corps Force Design 2030. Force Design 2030 is the latest effort to adapt, remain relevant, and out maneuver adversaries. Iron Sky demonstrated joint integration and operational mobility which also allowed the Marines to fine-tune expeditionary airfield security operations.
“Iron Sky is an exercise that has never been done before. It involves us determining whether or not there will be a simulated threat and being able to establish ourselves in a defensive position on a location in a rapid manner.” U.S. Marine Sgt. Henry Couch, a 3rd Marine Logistic Group combat engineer squad leader
This exercise was conducted for the very first time in Marine Corps history. Service members from different branches gathered together in Okinawa, Japan, to depart to Wake Island for the first time. Wake Island is primarily used as a mid-Pacific refueling stop for military aircraft and as an emergency landing area. Entry into Wake Island is heavily restricted, and requires a special use permit to visit.
“Iron Sky is an exercise that has never been done before,” said U.S. Marine Sgt. Henry Couch, a combat engineer squad leader with 9th ESB, 3rd Marine Logistic Group “It involves us determining whether or not there will be a simulated threat and being able to establish ourselves in a defensive position on a location in a rapid manner.”
Exercise Iron Sky offers different military occupational specialties a chance to work together and support a single mission - modernize the Pacific region’s approach to defense. The joint integration included Marines from 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd LAR, and 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. The exercise also encompasses integration from Air Force Airmen with 4th Airlift Squadron, 62nd Airlift Wing, that provided air support, and the Army 311th Signal Command that provided communication support.
The Marine Corps relies on exercises like Iron Sky to strengthen force protection and expand the capabilities of Marines in the Pacific.
Couch explained that since Wake Island is a secured location, conducting joint training with the Army and Air Force was essential to properly execute Iron Sky since the island is administered by the Air Force. The participating service members were able to conduct the advanced training while in a controlled location, in the case of an emergency.
“Not many service members or civilians ever get the chance to visit Wake island,” said Stauffer. “Actually being on the island, being able to train there, and having the ability to see the historical significance behind the island is an experience we will not soon forget.”