News: Rain or light, day or night, Marines train during Exercise Thunder Horse
Story by Lance Cpl. James Smith
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan - A field of dirt and clay became an area of operations for Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 as they charged ahead with Exercise Thunder Horse at the Haramura training area, near Hiroshima, from March 17-22, 2013.
According to 2nd Lt. Robert Litvin, MWSS-171 motor transportation operations platoon commander and exercise action officer, the primary mission of the exercise was to conduct convoy operations coupled with the chance to conduct engineering, explosive ordnance disposal and airbase ground-defense operations in a field environment.
“This exercise is to prepare these Marines for the exercise in Twentynine Palms, California, as well as preparing for war,” said Litvin.
The Marines dedicated three days of the exercise toward four convoy patrols per day. Each convoy included different scenarios, including improvised explosive devices, ambushes and a night drive, which challenged Marines to drive their vehicles while wearing night-vision goggles.
Even the weather added realism to the training. Twenty-four hour periods of rain, blistering winds, and chilly temperatures couldn’t stop the Marines from completing their mission.
“On day one of the convoys, it was apparent that not everyone knew what to expect and they didn’t exactly know where their place was,” said 1st Lt. James Woolley, MWSS-171 combat engineer platoon commander and exercise security team leader. “Once the Marines started to understand what their roles were, it made the leaders’ jobs a lot easier. By the third day, I barely had to coach anyone through the scenarios.”
Upon completion of the convoy operations, Marines unwound with the opportunity to fire their weapons at an indoor range near the training area.
Marines had the chance to fire the M240B medium machine gun, as well as their M16A4 assault rifles as part of a combat marksmanship session.
“The Marines had the weapons and used them for tactical scenarios all week,” said Maj. Matthew Halbert, MWSS-171 airfield operations commander and exercise officer in charge. “This gave them the opportunity to deploy that weapon system with live ammunition. It increases their confidence in themselves and their weapons.”
With the convoys completed, marksmanship finished and the exercise at an end, Marines could relax as they completed their mission to the best of their ability.
“It’s amazing to see Marines of different ranks and military occupational specialty backgrounds becoming familiar with each other throughout the course of the training,” said Lt. Col. Howard Eyth, MWSS-171 commanding officer. “There were the usual frictions of operating in an expeditionary environment, but the Marines came together, learned how to reach the objectives and leaders took charge. It’s a beautiful thing to see.”
With the field that provided these Marines with proper needs to complete their mission returned to its original state, MWSS-171 charges ahead with their reinforced knowledge as they prepare for their next exercise.