News: Recon Marines, Singaporean Special Forces conduct training in Hawaii
Story by Lance Cpl. Suzanna Lapi
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii - Reconnaissance Marines from 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, based in Okinawa, Japan, dove in and took flight with members of the Singapore Armed Forces Naval Diving Unit during Exercise Sandfisher 2013, a bilateral training exercise held at Marine Corps Base Hawaii from Jan. 7 to 18.
According to the recon leadership, the purpose of the operation was to build their military partnership by strengthening both nations’ tactics in amphibious procedures and combat diving. Unit members performed surface swims, small craft maneuvers, and special purpose insertion and extraction rigging.
Every year, the Singaporean divers and recon Marines train together for three weeks. Over the past eight years, they have trained in both Singapore and Hawaii.
Staff Sgt. King Ritchie, a reconnaissance team leader with 3rd Recon Bn. and native of Kirkland, Wash., said they exchanged tactics, techniques and procedures with the highly trained Singaporean divers.
“The operation is a good opportunity to work with other units that have a lot of experience,” he said.
The two nations worked together to carry out SPIE rigging and helocasting rehearsals, helping one another prepare for the exercises by fitting and checking their gear. They used SPIE rigging to prepare for a situation in which a helicopter can’t safely land and patrol units need to quickly move into or out of an area. Groups of approximately eight troops, clad in harnesses, were attached to a rope that dangled from a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter. The aircraft hovered as the unit attached and disconnected from the rope onto the ground.
Shortly after, they conducted helocasting for the same reason, but the team now exited from the rear of the aircraft by jumping into the water. The boat, which they also pushed out, was partially inflated before exiting. They completely filled it with air once the team hit the water, a process known as ‘soft ducking.’
Cpl. Jeff Sanders, a reconnaissance man with 3rd Recon Bn. and native of Arvada, Wyo., said it was exciting to learn new techniques with the close-knit group. Their focus was on international cooperation and refining standard operating procedures.
Ritchie said there were risks anytime they worked in the water, including dive related accidents and injuries, and challenges brought on by hazardous marine life like sharks and coral. Safety personnel were present with emergency equipment and divers were instructed to avoid sea life.
“We take every precaution we can to mitigate injuries,” he said.
Cpl. Kaleb Roberts, a reconnaissance man with 3rd Recon Bn. and native of Round Rock, Texas, said the operation was thrilling and it was beneficial to learn new diving techniques and tactics.
“The main importance was building the relationship between our countries,” he said.
The bond between unit members of these two nations was reinforced as strong as the rope they collectively dangled from during the joint training exercise. After completing the training, they returned to their individual home stations, where the recon Marines continued to prepare for a deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in the spring.