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31st Marine Expeditionary Unit


31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

Ready - Partnered - Lethal

Okinawa, Japan
Combined arms live fire exercise brings U.S. and Thai forces together

By Cpl. Garry J. Welch | | February 15, 2012

After moving into position to begin the assault, U.S. and Thai Marines alongside U.S. and Royal Thai soldiers waited anxiously for the order to begin the assault.

The Marines of Company A., Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, participated in a bilateral combined arms live fire exercise here, Feb. 15.  The purpose of the exercise was to improve interoperability between Thai and U.S. forces in a live-fire scenario.

As the attacking forces waited to move, two Royal Thai F-16s and two U.S. FA-18s flew over the target area, first dropping four 500 pound bombs, and then again to conduct a strafing run with machine guns to weaken the simulated defending force.  

Immediately following the airstrike, both Royal Thai and U.S. artillery batteries began to fire on multiple targets in the area. As the artillery fire subsided, the Marines got the word to move.

Allowing the Royal Thai Marines to take the lead, the Marines of Company A acted as one cohesive unit with the Royal Thai Marines and moved directly behind them.

Upon reaching a designated point, the Royal Thai Marines opened fire on the targets, and the U.S. Marines then took the lead.

Sprinting to a designated point a few hundred meters away, the U.S. Marines of Company A let loose a deadly barrage of small arms fire, and engaged enemy vehicles with multiple AT-4 rockets.

Firing thousands of rounds of ammunition and four AT-4 rockets, the Marines neutralized all threats and secured their objective.

“Today we did a live fire maneuver that incorporated our forces with the Royal Thai Marines and United States Army,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Fischer, a machine gun section leader with Company A, BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “We had multiple objectives and we made it a combined assault utilizing artillery, mortars, and air support while simultaneously having multiple maneuvering units attacking multiple objectives to suppress and kill the enemy.”

Working closely with the Royal Thai Marines allowed the Marines of Company A to learn some valuable skills that improve how U.S. and Thai forces may work together in the future.

“The importance of this exercise is showing our ability to command and control, and work together as a coalition,” said Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr., deputy commander of CG 12 and commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force. “It demonstrates that we have the ability to accomplish high-end missions.”

The Marines also learned a little about how to operate in the unfamiliar terrain and heat associated with tropical climates, which is important because the 31st MEU operates primarily in tropical regions throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

"This terrain is a lot different than anything my Marines have every worked in,” said Fischer. “Especially incorporating the weather and humidity into the equation, a lot of these Marines haven’t experienced it growing up in different parts of the United States. Also the terrain we are operating in now is patchy farmland and jungle, so it’s a good experience for them.”

In addition to learning how to operate in a tropical environment, the Marines also learned about the Thai culture in-between exercises.

“This is my first time in Thailand,” said Lance Cpl. Victor M. Huerta, a rifleman with Company A, BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “We worked with the Thai Marines and I was able to spend a little time with them, trade some stuff and learn a little bit about their culture. They were really interested in us and learned a lot about our culture too.”

As CALFEX came to a conclusion, the Marines were able to look back on what had happened, how they performed, and what they accomplished.

“It was pretty fun,” said Huerta “It’s one of those things you are definitely going to remember for quite awhile. To see all the different services joining up with the same objective, seeing different weaponry being shot at the same time, and it all come together as well as it did was a unique experience that I was glad to be a part of.”

CG 2012 demonstrates the resolve of the U.S. and participating nations to increase interoperability and promote security and peace throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The 31st MEU is the U.S.’s expeditionary force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.