POHANG, SOUTH KOREA -- U.S. Marines with the ground combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit trained infantry marksmanship fundamentals on Suseongri Firing Range near Pohang, South Korea, during Exercise Ssang Yong 16, March 14, 2016. Ssang Yong is a biennial military exercise focused on strengthening the amphibious landing capabilities of the Republic of Korea, the U.S, Australian and New Zealand militaries. Alongside their amphibious capabilities, Marines trained other skill sets to bolster their combat effectiveness and more.
Helicopter rotor-blades chopped through the chilled morning air as the first three CH-53E Super Stallions packed Marines from Golf Co., 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment descended from the thick, soupy gray sky. The Marines of ‘Ghost’ Company— known for their quick insert-and-extract tactics— rushed forward in all directions, claiming their foothold with violence of action. For many of these Marines, they would be training in a new clime and place: the cold hills of South Korea.
After a cadre of Engineers attached to Golf Company from 1st Combat Engineer Battalion busily built bunkers, the platoons of infantrymen refined their own craft. Using a nearby rehearsal lane, they took turns executing immediate action drills for receiving enemy fire. They also took time to zero their rifles to make sure they fired accurately with rifle combat optics.
During rehearsals, small unit leaders like Cpl. Iengi Dauwe, an infantry team leader in 1st Platoon, took the time to explain to his Marines how they fit into the overall scheme of the exercise.
“If the [Battalion Landing Team] is conducting amphibious assaults, it’s likely that Marines would go in from the air,” Dauwe said. “The firepower and forces need to be on site and, for the 13th MEU, that’s us.”
The San Bruno, California native also challenged his Marines to think about their role in the multi-lateral combined arms team of the III Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
The Marines attached to Golf Company from 1st Combat Engineer Battalion packed in power tools with their standard 100-pound fighting load. Despite the low temperatures, they quickly built the wooden bunkers and targets that simulated enemy positions in the training.
“When I heard we were coming to Korea, I expected to be half buried in snow,” said Cpl. Thiavaden Thang, a combat engineer with the 13th MEU. “It’s cold out here, but this is what we [Marines] do and nothing’s different.”
Though admittedly missing the warm weather in his hometown of Dallas, Texas, Thang took pride in wearing few-to-no warming layers. The plan of ‘warming up on the job’ worked like a charm, according to him.
Golf Company “is just one pin on the board,” according to Dauwe, but effective infantry fire-teams are the base of effective companies, which build on one another’s strengths to give power and flexibility to the MEB.
“Confirming our [battle sight zeros] gives us effective fires against the enemy, and gun drills gives us muscle memory for any shooting position, “ said Dauwe. “All of our training is meant to keep our infantry skills sharp so we can complete whatever mission comes down. Whether in Korea or anywhere else, we’ll train and stay ready.”