Welcome to the jungle: BLT 3/1 adapts to the Asia-Pacific region

29 Aug 2008 | Lance Cpl. Jason Spinella

Amidst the hot and damp jungles of Okinawa, a platoon of Marines must decide whether to hold their position or patrol through thick vegetation and unbeaten paths to find the enemy.

Over 100 Marines and sailors from Company L, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted patrol-base operations, Aug. 12-14, at Central Training Area Three on Camp Hansen.

This training gave the Marines and sailors an opportunity to adapt and acclimatize to an arduous jungle environment most commonly found in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Sanders, 2nd Platoon Sergeant.

“You’ve got to get accustomed to this humidity and heat because it is far different from the desert and mountain conditions we are used to operating in,” said Sanders, a Reidsville, Ga., native.

During the training, three of the company’s platoons established separate concealed patrol bases.  From these positions, each platoon conducted day and night patrols and re-supply missions.

Meanwhile, Co. L established a Combat Operations Center (COC) to support the training with additional communications and logistics.  The COC was located atop a hill in an open area known by all three platoons.  Members of the COC used humvees to drop off supplies at a common location.  This allowed the platoons to conduct their re-supply missions throughout the three days.

During the first day and evening patrols, several squads interdicted the movement of other platoons.  This type of ambush patrol training was one of the main goals for the company.

“The operation was force on force training, where the three platoons in the company worked separately to disrupt one another’s patrols and discover their enemies’ locations,” said 2nd Lt. Jeremy Adams, an artillery forward observer with BLT 3/1. “The training also allowed the Marines to learn how to sustain themselves in the jungle while overcoming the mobility issues they would encounter.”

The Marine Corps’ participation in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom has placed much emphasis on desert operations. According to “The Long War; Send in the Marines,” a book published in January 2008 as an operational employment concept to meet an uncertain security environment, “the Marine Corps of today reflects lessons learned in ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The 31st MEU and its role in the Asia-Pacific region provides a different type of operating environment due to its sub-tropical climate and support for Marine Forces Pacific’s theater security cooperation objectives. With Okinawa’s thick vegetation and unbeaten paths, the Marines and sailors from Co. L adjusted their desert patrolling techniques to this new environment.  While challenging, the Marines felt enthused about the new surroundings.

“It’s great to just get out there and do something most Marines don’t get a chance to do,” said Lance Cpl. Cameron Von-Letkemann, a squad automatic weapon gunner with 3rd Platoon. “The hardest part of the training was to learn to watch your steps, to stay quiet and cope with the extreme darkness of the jungle. At night it’s so dark you can’t even see your buddy next to you.”

While the training gave the Marines and sailors of BLT 3/1 an opportunity to adapt and acclimatize in their new environment, it also helped prepare them for future contingencies while deployed with the 31st MEU.

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31st Marine Expeditionary Unit