POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii - When it comes to training, some countries aren’t as lucky as the United States is with having such a vast range of training environments, one of those countries being Australia who lack the terrain that Pohakuloa Training Area in Hawaii has to offer. During the Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014, the world’s largest multinational maritime exercise, that has a phase on the Big Island, the Australians took full advantage of everything being offered from terrain to fostering relationships with participating nations.
“The complex terrain at the range allowed us to practice maneuver at the platoon level that we wouldn’t be able to do in the Darwin area,” said Maj. Ryan Leadbeater, commander of the 5th Battalion in the Royal Australian Regiment, and commanding officer of Combined Landing Team 4. “Quite simply, Darwin is flat and the heat doesn’t allow us to train, so for us to be able to come here and change environments, it really works well for us.”
Range 10, where the Australians were training, is known for its hills that provide cover allowing service members to train in the environment that is hard to come by, especially for the foreign nations who get to experience this for the first time during RIMPAC. Ending with trenches in which service members have to clear using enhanced infantry tactics, whether that be using grenades or room clearing tactics and sometimes being hit with tear gas, or as referred to by Marines, CS gas.
Building closer military-to-military bonds to facilitate clear lines of communication is what RIMPAC is about, and the environment at PTA creates an opportunity where participating nations must cooperate. This subsequently enables enhanced regional security, stability and prosperity.
“The training environment here at PTA has had us working close with each other, there’s the physical environment where we have to push and live together in small places because the weather and altitude,” said Leadbeater. “But then there’s also the proximity, we’ve had to coordinate for logistical support and safety.”
Although this might be the first time at RIMPAC for some Australian soldiers, it isn’t their first interaction with some of the same Marines they see here.
“It’s nice seeing Marines that we hosted in Australia, as part of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, here in their home environment. We get to see each other and enjoy their company again,” Leadbeater said. “The relationship that has been built between Australia and the United States is going to be enduring, and already as a military we can see the benefits from that.”
As for the Marines who come out here multiple times a year, some believe that this is some of training environment there is to offer out there, “For an infantry Marine, this is as good as it gets,” said Col. Timothy Winand, commander, 3rd Marine Regiment and the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force during RIMPAC 2014, emphasizing that there’s really no other place like PTA for training.
“The great thing about RIMPAC is that we come together and get to see how everyone does things, and identify how you can learn and start doing things better.”
Credible, ready forces help to preserve peace and prevent conflict. RIMPAC participants have the opportunity to further enhance their capability and proficiency to respond to crisis as part of a joint or combined effort.
“Whether it’s having a coffee together or conducting platoon-sized attacks all the way up to amphibious landings, RIMPAC has been nothing but positive.” Leadbeater said, “None of us have been on this exercise before, and really I don’t know how we’re going to get better than this.”