Photo Information

From left, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dave Hermansen and Lance Cpl. Jabril Giannotti, mortarmen, and Sgt. Jack Williams, a squad leader, all assigned to Weapons Co., Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fire a 81mm training mortar with the M252A2 mortar system during Ssang Yong 16 at Suseongri, South Korea, March 15, 2016. Ssang Yong familiarizes American armed forces with the Korean Peninsula and contributes to the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. Hermansen is a native of Westbrook, Connecticut. Giannotti is a native of Highland Park, New Jersey. Williams is a native of Pilot Point, Texas.

Photo by Cpl. Darien Bjorndal

Twin Dragons: 31st MEU storms beaches, ranges during Ssang Yong 16

21 Mar 2016 | Cpl. Thor Larson The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

“Attention landing force, standby for call aways,” comes over the 1MC.

Upon hearing the call, Marines and sailors begin hastily throwing packs on their backs and grabbing their weapons from the armory. The loud clang of metal hatches rings through the spaces of the ship and the thud of boots on the deck can be heard while people rush to get their gear ready.

The 1MC continues to call out while the Marines and sailors make their way through the cramped passageways trying to make it to the well deck and flight deck on time. Once they reach their designated departure areas they board AAV-P7/A1 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, Landing Craft, Air Cushioned hovercraft and helicopters and prepare to assault the beach.

The Marines and sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit joined almost 20,000 service members from four different countries to conduct a combined amphibious assault and simulated follow-on actions as part of Ssang Yong 16 in South Korea.

Ssang Yong, which means “Twin Dragons,” is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army forces in order to strengthen interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations.

Ssang Yong 16 began with a combined amphibious assault with 19 ships from the 31st MEU, 13th MEU and the ROK Marine Corps Marine Task Force. Multiple amphibious vehicles and aircraft assaulted the beach and brought troops ashore to begin the exercise.

“Ssang Yong 16 was among the largest combined amphibious exercise to date, incorporating more than 19,000 U.S., ROK Navy-Marine Corps, Australian Army, Royal New Zealand Army,” said U.S. Marine Col. Romin Dasmalchi, the commanding officer of the 31st MEU. “It was an incredible experience to share tactics, build personal relationships and enhance our ability to work cohesively together. Bringing together forces on a scale as large as this is complex. It is important we continue to train and work together to ensure cohesion and interoperability.”

After the combined amphibious assault, the MEU conducted many different follow-on actions to simulate what operations would need to be conducted after carrying out a forcible entry into enemy-held territory. In addition to the initial assaults, the Marines conducted urban warfare training, live fire platoon assaults, mortar shoots, artillery fire missions and a range of air operations.

Because of Ssang Yong’s large scale amphibious assault and follow-on missions, it required a significant amount of planning and logistical support. That support came from Exercise Freedom Banner 16.

“Freedom banner set the conditions for the combined amphibious assault that formed the cornerstone of Ssang Yong 16,” said Dasmalchi. “Freedom Banner’s purpose was to practice using naval and amphibious assets to support forces ashore. The amphibious operations conducted during Ssang Yong were the next operational step to Freedom Banner’s seabasing operations.”

Incorporating the combined forces during Ssang Yong helps to build maritime superiority between allied countries and prepares the Navy and Marine Corps units to use the sea as maneuver space for operational reach and sea control.

“Building stronger relationships and working with our allies and partners in this region to foster a collective stance, or ‘peace through strength’ when faced with security challenges are critical to the successful defense of the ROK and the ability of U.S. military forces to effectively respond to regional challenges,” said Dasmalchi. “This cooperation and training ensure the 31st MEU is ready to respond rapidly throughout the Asia-Pacific as needed, across a spectrum of military operations.”

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