Competition fosters growth, friendships for ROK, US Marines

Competition fosters growth, friendships for ROK, US Marines

by Sgt. Anthony J. Kirby
Okinawa Marine Staff

PYEONGCHANG TRAINING AREA, POHANG, Republic of Korea -- From skiing down steep, snow-covered hills, to “kicking-in doors,” Republic of Korea and U.S. Marines helped each other grow through friendly competition.

ROK Marines with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion and U.S. Marines with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, participated in a squad competition during Korean Marine Exchange Program 14-2 Feb. 17-20 in Pyeongchang Training Area, Pohang, Republic of Korea.

The company is with 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program.

KMEP is a regularly scheduled combined training exercise that increases the combat readiness and interoperability between the ROK and U.S. Marine Corps forces, and is designed to promote stability on the Korean Peninsula, enhance the alliance between the two nations, and strengthen ROK-U.S. military capabilities. The ROK and U.S. Marines executed the course over four days. The first two days, Feb. 17-18, were practice while the last two days, Feb. 19-20, were for timed evaluation.

“The intent of this course is to evaluate the ROK and U.S. Marines’ ability to move through rough terrain while accomplishing certain objectives along the way within an eight-hour time limit,” said 2nd Lt. Stephen S. Fergerson, a platoon commander with Company F.

Twenty-seven teams, some of which were composed of ROK and U.S. Marines, went through the six-mile, four-station course.

“The course gives us (U.S. Marines) a feel for what their mission is, which is to infiltrate, locate and call for fire,” said Fergerson. “They’re not a direct action unit like we are. They’re teaching us (stealth) tactics to combat the enemy, and we’re teaching them tactics to combat the enemy head-on.”

Through initial preparation, the Marines from both nations were able to better navigate the grueling course during the timed portion of the event.

“The practice days allowed us to plan and set a pace for going through the course, but the time (sensitivity) on evaluation day still made it difficult,” said U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. John D. Watson, a joint forward observer with Weapons Co., currently assigned to Co. F. “You understand that you need to push yourself, even at those steep hills.”

The course embodies the strengths of both the ROK and U.S. Marines, creating a foundation for both militaries to learn from each other.

The four-station course began with an assault skiing event, which required the teams to cliff rappel then ski downhill in formation while protecting each other and stopping to engage mock enemy combatants.
The next station had teams set up security and call for accurate fire support. Following this, they executed immediate action casualty evacuation drills. This required teams to patrol, then execute buddy rushes when they received enemy fire, as one person acted as a simulated casualty. A few teammates assessed the casualties and escorted them to a designated spot while the rest of the team provided security.

The last station consisted of a simulated close-quarter battle, in which teams carried out military operations on urbanized terrain with multiple mock enemies.

The course tested the teams physically and mentally, according to Watson.

Along with a desire for the fastest time, pride and encouragement within the teams helped them complete the course. Even with the practice days, it was still a strenuous course.

“We developed a great sense of camaraderie with the ROK Marines we were working with,” said Watson. “They love the fact that we push ourselves not just for the race, but for pride as well. You can tell they want to win and be there for their teammates, and it feels good to see that in foreign allies.”

It was a knowledgeable experience with ROK and U.S. Marines working together, according to ROK Marine Pfc. Jun Beam Ko, a driver with 2nd Recon Bn.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn and train with them,” said Ko. “Both of us have done a lot we haven’t experienced before. If we go to war together in the future, the bond we’ve made now will help us win.”

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