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Papua New Guinea soldiers and U.S. Marines and Sailors stand in formation during the opening remarks for Exercise Koa Moana, June 18, 2016, at Taurama Barracks, Papua New Guinea. The multi-national, bilateral exercise is designed to improve interoperability and relations through mil-to-mil training and by sharing infantry, engineering, medical and law enforcement skills.

Photo by Cpl. William Hester

Exercise Koa Moana: First direct training between U.S. Marines, Papua New Guinea Defence Force

24 Jun 2016 | Cpl. William Hester The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

More than 130 service members from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, U.S. Marine Corps and Navy mesh as one formation, despite the extreme heat and scorching sun, to celebrate the beginning of a beneficial future for all three components.

Task Force Koa Moana and soldiers with the PNGDF held an opening ceremony for Exercise Koa Moana, at Taurama Barracks, Papua New Guinea, June 18, 2016.

“This exercise is going to be the first of what should be many opportunities to broaden and deepen the ties of friendship and professionalization,” said Joel F. Maybury, the Deputy Chief of Mission with the U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea. “We’ve been looking for a number of ways for the U.S. and PNG to come together, whether it’s military, economic commercial or cultural arena.”

The task force arrived in Papua New Guinea via USNS Sacagawea, June 17, 2016, after traveling from Timor Leste for Exercise Crocodilo 16, as part of their deployment in the Asia-Pacific region. The PNGDF Navy had the opportunity to test their capabilities by using one of their naval vessels to transport the Marines, Sailors and their gear from ship to ship to shore.

“The purpose of Exercise Koa Moana, which means ‘ocean warrior’ in the Hawaiian language, is to practice skills in various military fields, resulting in a skills transfer between both organizations,” said Col. Siale Diro, the Chief of Force Preparation for land and sea elements in the PNGDF. “It is important to build our relationship and our military partnership with our allies.”

The PNGDF has trained frequently with the U.S. Army, but this marks the first opportunity for them to train with the U.S. Marines directly, specifically in infantry tactics, combat lifesaving techniques, engineering capabilities and non-lethal law enforcement capabilities.

“This exercise provides a very good platform to build our relationship with the U.S. Marines,” said Diro. “We have a long standing relationship with the U.S. military. We understand their role in the region and we share the same values of liberty, individual rights, democracy and freedom of speech.”

Papua New Guinea is the second of four destinations scheduled during Task Force Koa Moana’s deployment, which has been assigned the mission of conducting multi-national, bilateral exercises with multiple nations to increase interoperability and relations to preserve peace and stability in the Pacific.

“The big picture is global and regional security,” said Maybury. “Our friends and allies in the Pacific are important.”

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