CAMP HANSEN OKINAWA, Japan — January 15, 2016 — His bulky, brown pack soaked in rain water made it a challenge to walk up the already steep hills of the jungle. His shoulders ached in a constant, annoying pain from the weight of the pack. The mud under his feet made him slip and fall every 100 steps. Through all these tangible problems and an array of intangibles, the Marine kept his composure and focused on the mission at hand – to locate, close with and destroy his enemy.
Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, participated in a platoon exercise in the jungle training areas of Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 7-9, 2016. The Marines, normally stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, got their first taste of jungle terrain this year.
“The purpose of this exercise is to get the Marines out into some new terrain and out of the Pendleton mindset to where it’s just open ground,” said 1st Lt. Colton Morgan, a platoon commander with Alpha Co., BLT 1/5 31st MEU. “This will give us an opportunity to see how we can conduct operations in the jungle terrain and really refine our (standard operating procedures) and techniques.”
The training lasted three days, with the company pitting its platoons against one another.
“On this exercise basically we’re going to have three platoons going out to the jungle,” said 1st Sgt. Edward Lemus, the company first sergeant with Alpha Co., BLT 1/5, 31st MEU. “First platoon is going to play the enemy that’s already been dropped off and embedded in the jungle. We have two additional platoons that are going out and they’re going to be the platoons that attack.”
During the exercise, the Marines had to not only worry about enemy platoons but also navigate through the rough jungles of Okinawa.
“Specifically this type of training in Okinawa is important, because it allows the Marines to familiarize themselves with their surroundings as well as to go ahead and bond as a team, trusting in their abilities to apply the fundamentals of jungle warfare,” said Lemus, a native of Woodland, California.
The Marines were very alert in the jungle terrain, making sure to stay true to the very basics of warfare.
“It gives the guys a good chance to evaluate themselves, their squad and really examine how proficient we are,” said Morgan, a native of Madisonville, Texas. “For the past 15 years it’s been nothing but desert, and it’s better to get back to our roots and make sure we can still operate just as efficiently in this type of terrain.”
Though it was just a training event, the Marines took every part of it seriously.
“Everything you do is important, especially the little things in an environment like this,” said, Cpl. Jordan Ninde, a fire team leader with Alpha Co., BLT 1/5, 31st MEU.
Ninde, a native of Fishersville, Indiana, says he and his team learned a lot from the exercise and how to operate in the terrain for future operations.
“It got us out of our norm, and we will be able to refresh and refine our skills of jungle warfare because of it,” said Ninde.