KIN BLUE TRAINING AREA, OKINAWA, Japan --
Sporadic bursts of rifle fire cut through the still air, drawing an immediate response from the Marines staged on the opposite end of the clearing. Call for maneuvers were made as groups of Marines took up defensive positions, returning fire in the direction of the enemy contact. Minutes later, three hostiles were either killed or captured, and a security perimeter was established around the cleared area.
“So far we’ve encountered rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire,” said Lance Cpl. Derek Gregory, an assaultman with Company A., Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “After clearing the immediate area and checking for any (improvised explosive devices), we’ll return the town to the Kin government.”
Although there is no Kin government on the island of Okinawa, the capturing of Kin town from control of enemy forces is one of the objectives during a training exercise here, Jan. 13. The unit known as Boat Co., conducted a raid using Combat Rubber Raiding Craft on the Kin Blue training area as part of the MEU’s pre-deployment exercise.
“The focus of this training was to properly conduct a boat raid from the beach, locate and eliminate any offensive forces and patrol the surrounding area,” said Sgt. Henry Pulcine, acting range safety officer for the Kin Blue training area.
A total of 15 craft hit the beach with the Marines quickly moving ashore and setting up defenses around the immediate area. After the boats were camouflaged with sand, the Marines made their way into the simulated Kin town with cover provided by snipers and mortar teams.
“It may be fake, but it’s one of the best ways to keep our skills fresh and ensure we don’t forget any beneficial training,” said Gregory. “We’re going to keep doing it so we’re ready when we deploy.”
After securing the town, the Marines continued patrolling the rest of the area, discovering and properly clearing mock IEDs along the way.
Another patch of resistance was met when hostiles concealed in the foliage attempted to repel the Marines from securing a landing zone, but were eventually overcome. Those Marines that were “injured” in the firefights were evacuated by way of helicopter from the secured LZ.
When the rest of the area was determined to be free of remaining enemy forces, the Marines made their way back to the beach to leave in the craft that brought them in.
“This training combined different elements of the (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) and further taught them how to work as a cohesive whole,” said Pulcine. “It was a good learning exercise, and I think it helped the Marines work on any areas that might have needed attention.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.