U.S. Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, based out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, completed the culminating event during exercise Eagle Wrath 2016 at Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Japan, July 29, 2016.
The purpose of the culminating event is to test the training and readiness events or Marine Corps tasks assigned to MWSS171, which pertain to air base ground defense.
During the culminating event, Marines established a mock air base that included a landing zone and refueling point, constructed defensive and machine-gun positions, and conducted convoys and patrols over the course of four days. Marines were tasked with securing a landing zone and establishing security.
“The Marine came in three waves,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Robert Rivera, engineer company commander with MWSS-171. “The first wave was initial security where they secured the air field so the rest of the Marines can come into a protected environment and employ the rest of their forces. Once the air field was secured, the follow-on air field services could establish services such as fuel, airfield operations and expeditionary fire rescue.”
Throughout the next few days, Marines conducted patrols to build reconnaissance of the surrounding area, practiced mishap drills to maintain readiness and engaged simulated enemy contacts.
“We sent out patrols, established a listening post, and observation post and had a quick reaction force at the ready while patrols observed the areas where the enemy may be trafficking,” said Rivera. “When we began our tactical retrograde, we ramped it up to troop patrols and one quick reaction force to ensure the enemy doesn’t have any idea that we are in a tactical retrograde. If we up our defensive posture, the enemy will think that we are still going to be here and allow us to leave safely.”
MWSS-171 conducts this exercise once a year in order to train all the Marines within the squadron, enhance their technical skills, field experience and military occupational specialty capability.
Cpl. Christian Marin, heavy equipment mechanic with MWSS-171 said by learning from his mistakes last year he was able to prepare and make this year more successful.
“Last year I was a young non-commissioned officer coming out here and learned a lot of hard lessons,” said Marin. “The culminating even is where squad leaders should employ their squads, set up defensive positions and security, and send them on patrols on their own and react to the drills we have been training for. There are so many different scenarios and you can’t prepare for all of them, but you can challenge yourself and let your Marines know who is in charge and what tasks need accomplished. Some of the challenges we could be tasked with are having multiple casualties, a large area to defend without enough personnel, where you want to place your landing zone and a lot of these scenarios are not in my day-to-day job. It opened my eyes to where I trained myself and my Marines prior to coming out here. This year we had platoon commanders and platoon sergeants involved, different platoons and squads, more Marines and equipment.”
Known as ‘America’s Squadron,’ MWSS-171 received assistance throughout the exercise from Combat Logistics Company 36 from MCAS Iwakuni, the Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion and Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
“The Marines were outstanding throughout the culminating event,” said Cpl. Raymond Berarducci, first platoon, platoon sergeant with MWSS-171. “For many of them, this was their first time behind some of the weapon systems such as the MK19 grenade launchers and M2 .50-caliber heavy-machine guns. We held classes building up to this event, came out here, the squad leaders directed their squads where they needed to be, and were able to accomplish the platoons mission.”
To wrap up exercise Eagle Wrath 2016, ‘America’s squadron’ will conquer Mount Fuji before packing up gear and washing down equipment.