MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
In the final week of Exercise Iron Fist 2013, Marines and Sailors with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Japan Ground Self Defense Force left Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton on Feb. 7, on two ships, the USS Boxer (LHD-4) and the USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52).
These two ships carried elements of Japan’s Western Army Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Combat Logistics Battalion 13, and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166. This combined effort enabled the 13th MEU to bring to bear its Marine Air-Ground Task Force with the JGSDF for amphibious training on San Clemente Island and Camp Pendleton.
“I think the training has been beneficial for our Marines and the [JGSDF] primarily because it offers our Marines the opportunity to teach the capability sets we possess,” said Lt. Col. Christopher J. Bronzi, a Poughquag, N.Y. native and commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 13th MEU. “Also, we gain an appreciation for some of the benefits and challenges of working with another military, because we’ll be doing a lot of that on deployment. I think it sets us up for success for when we deploy and participate in a lot of Theater Security Cooperation Exercises.”
Before the amphibious training began, much coordination, preparation, and cooperation on all levels of the 13th MEU, WAiR, and both Navy ships had to synchronize before the first amphibious demonstration could occur. Everyone from the MEU commander to the Marine repairing amphibious assault vehicle 7’s had a part in ensuring the safety and success of this undertaking.
“The work we are doing here is our bread and butter, moving Marines from ship to shore and back,” said Lance Cpl. Jonathan M. Marlieb, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native and AAV crew chief with AAV Platoon, Bravo Company, 1/4, 13th MEU. “It’s a huge undertaking and a lot of work needs to be done before we launch. It takes eight man-hours of maintenance work for each hour of use for our vehicles.”
In the midday sun of Feb. 9, 17 AAV’s loaded with Marines with Bravo Company, launched from the USS Pearl Harbor into the ocean, headed for San Clemente Island. Members of the JGSDF, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, and Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, had landed on the island a day earlier and helped secure an airfield and also provided support for the main effort’s landing.
The Marines drove into the island and established a temporary forward operating base to launch patrols and eliminate mock enemy force role players from 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. During the two-day training event, the two forces eliminated a squad-sized force through effective use of patrols and maneuver tactics. When their training on San Clemente Island concluded, the JGSDF and Marines returned to ship and prepared for the culminating event on Camp Pendleton.
On Feb. 13, the Marines once again launched from the USS Pearl Harbor in AAV’s and coordinated a joint attack on training ranges aboard Camp Pendleton. The JGSDF launched from the USS Boxer in MV-22 Ospreys and were the main attacking element. The Marines served as security and support by fire for the culminating event. Meanwhile the JGSDF tenaciously maneuvered to attack a trench system full of Marines role playing as an opposition force using blank ammunition. In a matter of hours, they seized the objective. Their cooperation, planning, execution and dedication to training together meant success on the culminating event.
“In general we’ve conducted various training events with good results,” said Col. Matsushi Kunni, commanding officer of the Western Infantry Regiment, JGSDF. “In the [time] I’ve been here, I’ve come to understand there are areas between the JGSDF and the United States Marine Corps, slight differences in how we think and do things. Being able discuss those small differences has allowed us to understand each other better. From what I’ve seen, so many of my Soldiers are very positive about the experiences they’ve had here.”
With the exercise’s training completed, soon members of the JGSDF will return home with a wealth of training experience. The “Fighting 13th” will use this training as the beginning of many months working together as a unit on pre-deployment training. Both militaries will part ways; however they both part ways united under the common goal of becoming better warriors.