Recon Marines prepare for extreme hike in South Korea
MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CAMP, South Korea - Marines and sailors with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion deployed to the Republic of Korea Mountain Warfare Training Camp located in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, prepared to participate in a 400-kilometer hike as part of the Korean Marine Exchange Program 14-3, Jan. 22.
KMEP is an annual training event that allows Marines from both nations an opportunity to project their military power, cross-train in skills such as cold-weather survival and tactics, and deepen cultural ties.
The U.S. Marines participating are with the 3rd Recon Bn., 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. The ROK Marines are with the 1st ROK Special Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st ROK Division.
The U.S. Marines will train for a multitude of missions during KMEP that could occur in an extreme cold-weather environment, including various assaults, raids, long-range patrols, climatization events, skiing and a 400-kilometer hike, according to Capt. Chad R. Bainbridge, a platoon commander with 3rd Recon Bn.
“This is the first time that the Marine Corps has gone on this hike with the ROK Marines,” said Bainbridge. “Other units have been invited to the cold-weather hike, but none have actually participated.”
The hike will span 13 days and cover a massive 400 kilometers across South Korea, according to Bainbridge.
“Most of the hike will be on roads following a river, but at some points the teams will (separate into different groups) and (complete) infiltrations training then regroup,” said Bainbridge. “Of course, some of it will be cross-country terrain movement.”
During the hike, the Marines will travel with lighter packs, averaging around 40 pounds and carrying only the essentials, such as food, water, sleeping gear, warming layers and rifles, according to Gunnery Sgt. Matthew C. Luckey, a platoon sergeant with 3rd Recon Bn.
“Doing this hike with the ROK Marines builds camaraderie, respect and gives our commander confidence that we can do what we say we can do,” said Luckey. “It also sends a message to our enemies that you can take away all our vehicles and helicopters and other modes of transportation, and in the end we will still find a way to go where we need to go.”
To prepare for the hike, the Marines conducted three ruck runs and the annual Recon Physical Assessment Test, which consists of a 500-meter swim, maximum set push-ups and sit-ups, and a grueling 12-mile speed hike, according to Petty Officer 3rd Class Cody Goddard, a corpsman with the battalion.
“Besides the unit training, a lot of the guys were in the gym working on their lower body strength,” said Goddard. “We did a lot of sprinting and squats.”
Although there are some obstacles and the task is daunting, the Marines of both nations will train well together and make it to the finish line, according to Luckey.
“It’s difficult because of the language barrier, but it’s interesting to see how (the ROK Marines) operate and how they approach things,” said Luckey. “Being invited out here is significant because it gives us the opportunity to work together, do this cold-weather training together (and be successful together).”