Blue Chromite exercise brings Marine Corps back to its Pacific roots after years in the desert
IE ISLAND, Okinawa — Something roused the U.S. Marines “sleeping” on the ground around the Ie Island airstrip off the coast of Okinawa. The night watchman rushed into the tall grass, peering through his rifle scope. Another Marine popped up, then another, silhouettes in pitch-blackness. Night vision cast its all-seeing gaze, and soon, there were rifles pointed toward the windswept grasslands and jungle.
The Marines from India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, forward-deployed to Okinawa’s 3rd Marine Division from Kaneohe Bay, had just seized the airfield in a surprise raid as part of Exercise Blue Chromite 2017, which ran from Oct. 29-Nov. 4. About 2,000 Marines and sailors from Okinawa and Sasebo took part in the fourth annual Navy-Marine Corps interoperability exercise, in the central, northern and Ie Shima training areas of Okinawa.
This year, the exercise was designed to bring the Corps back to its Pacific roots after over a decade in the desert, focusing on lightning-quick expeditionary operations where stealth and camouflage are the keys to success.
“Potential adversaries in this region have the capability of challenging us in many domains,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Simcock II, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Division.
“In the air, sea, land, also in the electromagnetic spectrum. We have to be able to fight and win in that environment. It’s going to require us to do things a little bit different. Blue Chromite gets us the opportunity to take advantage of the equipment and capabilities that we have, that we believe will be very successful in this region and have been in the past.”
Every time Marine planners build an exercise, they work to incorporate new elements, said Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, commander of the Navy’s Pacific-based, forward-deployed amphibious force. “Blue Chromite is no different."
This year’s exercise featured short- and long-range raids, command and control operations in a jungle setting, bridge building and movement of Marines by air and by sea with the additions of the amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay and fast transport USNS Fall River. It also incorporated Air Force C-130 aircraft and Army landing craft.
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