MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – The mood was bittersweet on the San Mateo parade field as two platoon-sized-formations stood at the position of attention waiting to be dismissed. Rain drizzled atop the heads of the joint force’s members who greeted each other as strangers a few weeks ago, but now say farewell as friends.
Marines serving with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, and guardsmen serving with 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards, had been working and living side-by-side for approximately three weeks during Exercise Valiant Mark 2012. The joint forces had been exchanging tactics and cultures over the course of the exercise in which they executed squad, platoon and company sized assaults. The two forces also conducted helicopter insertion training, amphibious assault training and military operations in urban terrain training aboard Camp Pendleton.
“Valiant Mark is a bilateral exercise between the United States Marine Corps and Singapore Guards that happens every year,” said Lt. Col. Jason Perry, the commanding officer of 2nd Bn., 5th Marines. “We train side-by-side and exchange tactics with the guardsmen.”
During the course of the exercise Perry, a 43-year-old native of Flat Rock, N.C., set three goals for his Marines.
“My first goal and possibly the most important was for each of the Marines and guardsmen to make a friend and build a strong relationship with one another,” said Perry.
He believes the bonds shared with the guardsmen and Marines is a direct reflection of his relationship with Lt. Col. Freddie Tan, the commanding officer of 3rd Bn. Singapore Guards.
“I could tell that the Marines and my guardsmen were enjoying each other’s company by the end of the exercise,” said Tan, a 36-year-old native of Singapore. “At the beginning of training they didn’t talk to each other as much, but by the end of the exercise they were sharing jokes, meals, and photos of their loved ones with one another.”
The next goal Perry set for the joint force was to train hard and share tactics and experience with one another.
The Marine battalion had just returned from a combat deployment in Helmand province, Afghanistan, where they conducted counterinsurgency operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Just returning home from Afghanistan, the Marines have experience that they could share with the guardsmen,” said Tan. “They could tell my guardsmen what tactics worked for them and how we could implement them in our training programs.”
The Marines were always willing to share their knowledge of combat with the guardsmen, Tan added.
The third goal Perry set was for the Marines and guardsmen to keep each other safe.
“We were moving fast, firing a lot of rounds so safety was paramount,” said Perry. “The Marines and guardsmen were not just looking after their own, but they were keeping each other safe as well.”
Perry said at the beginning of the exercise the two forces worked well together to accomplish the goals he set by and made Valiant Mark a success.
“When the two forces began working together and exchanging tactics I could tell this was going to be a fun exercise,” said Perry. “The best moments of the exercise is when I would see my Marines and the guardsmen laughing and joking with one another after a hard day of training.”
Valiant Mark was conducted in conjunction with Steel Knight, an annual exercise designed to train the 1st Marine Division for deployment as the ground combat element of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The focus of the exercise is to ensure that 1st Marine Division is fully prepared to deploy as an expeditionary force across the range of military operations and is capable of responding to any crisis across the world.