'Ode to Joy'

'Ode to Joy'

June 3, 2011

Bang, Pow, Pop: SRT Marines train, shoot paper enemies

Lance Cpl. Amanda A. Phelps, Special Reaction Team entry member, shoots two to the head and one to the chest, failure to stop drill with the M4 carbine during the SRT quarterly training at the Indoor Small Arms Range here May 25-26. The Marines did several practice scenarios to familiarize themselves with the weapons before moving on to pre-qualifications and qualifications. (Photo by LCpl. Cayce Nevers)
By Lance Cpl. Cayce Nevers, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni 
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan  — Bang! Bang! The sound of Marines sending off rounds of the M4 carbine echoed throughout the Indoor Small Arms Range here May 25-26 during the Special Reaction Team quarterly training.
SRT, the Marine Corps’ version of a civilian Special Weapons and Tactics team, is the last resort when all other military police tactics have failed.

“It is like our military police version of SWAT,” said Sgt. Kyle C. Hill, SRT team leader. “We are a ‘SWAT’ team to handle any kind of high risk situation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.”

Each SRT member must be proficient at his or her job, to include shooting, making split second decisions and holding themselves to a higher standard.

“SRT is a step above,” said Lance Cpl. Amanda A. Phelps, SRT entry member. “Its elite and you always have to be on top of your game. We are the last resort, so when things are going down and there are no other means, we are called.”

With that, SRT is constantly training.

“We P.T. five times per week, shoot quarterly and we do scenario-based training, weapon reloads and that kind of thing five times per week,” said Cpl. Jairo A. Javier, SRT assistant team leader. “We are on call 24/7, so even on the weekends, if they want us to train, we have to come in.”

Each aspect of the quarterly shooting is important to the Marines. They learn more advanced weapon techniques and movements than most Marines receive.

“It’s important because you have to be able to go into a building, not knowing what you’re getting yourself into and be on top of your game at all times,” said Phelps.

The training helps Marines keep their skills sharp and create confidence with weapon handling.

“This is going to help us out in everything,” said Javier. “Marksmanship is obviously a huge factor because when you make entry into a building, it may come down to you taking a shot between one person and another. You have to be confident in your ability to take out the suspect and not the victim.”

The Marines on the SRT team spent the first day at the ISAR familiarizing themselves with the M4 and the Baretta M9. They then spent the second day qualifying.

The Marines loaded their magazines and performed many different scenarios.

“The most challenging was probably the movement while engaging a target, it’s always hard to keep steady,” said Phelps.

While for one Marine, moving may have been the most challenging, others found evaluating the situation was the hardest part for them.

Split second decisions are a must when you are on SRT and they must be good decisions, Javier said.

Over 5,000 rounds were used throughout the two days of shooting the SRT Marines did during the training. Not only did the Marines have many rounds to go through in such a short time, they also had more gear than they were used to.

“This training puts a lot of stress on them, the added weight of wearing the gear and using new scenarios and things like that,” said Hill.

“Our goal was to use this training to make the Marines proficient, and I am sure that is what most Marines took out of this training,” he said.

With the qualifications and familiarization past, the Marines are a little more proficient with the weapons they use.

“The Marines will use this training to develop a better proficiency with the weapon systems that we use and their shooting capabilities,” said Hill.

The SRT Marines will continue to train in scenarios and reloading drills. While they may not be able to shoot for another several months, the Marines seemed more comfortable after the training they took part in than they did before shooting the weapons.

Photo of the Day

Marines and Sailors of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, arrive here from California for deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit as the new Battalion Landing Team, June 3. The battalion has now become the ground combat element of the 31st MEU, and is scheduled to embark aboard ships of Amphibious Squadron 11 on a deployment in support of Theater Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. The 31st MEU is the nation's only continually forward-deployed MEU. (Photo by Capt. Caleb Eames)

June 2, 2011

Marines live, operate on vital training island

A KC130-J Super Hercules aircraft lands during a training exercise on Ie Shima training facility, managed by a small detachment of Marines. The facility is used for training evolutions such as AV-8B Harrier aircraft takeoff and landing exercises and human and cargo parachute drop training. (Photo by Cpl. Justin Wheeler)
By Cpl. Justin R. Wheeler, Marine Corps Bases Japan 

IE SHIMA, Okinawa, Japan  — A large volcano-shaped rock pierces the sky; small patches of land below it cover the horizon -- no building stands higher than a few stories. Tucked a few miles beyond the port exists an open patch of land, a few buildings speckle its surface. It resembles a home on a farm -- open and expansive. A tight-knit squad of Marines inhabit this patch. To them, Ie Shima is more than their work environment, it is their home.

The U.S. military’s first operation on Ie Shima dates back to World War II.

A large element of American troops hit the beaches of Ie Shima April 16, 1945. There was light enemy resistance on the beach, similar to the landing onto the main island of Okinawa, said Mark Waycaster, a tour guide with Marine Corps Community Services.

After the island was seized, Ie Shima became the largest airfield in the Okinawa prefecture occupied by American military forces. The airfield was used fielding flights for close air support and blocking attacks originating from mainland Japan. The famous combat correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed by a sniper at Ie Shima.

After the war, the Marine Corps operated on one-third of the island. Throughout the years, it has been used to conduct training exercises, such as AV-8B Harrier aircraft takeoff and landing exercises and human and cargo parachute drop training. Today, the facility primarily consists of the northwest part of the island, with much of the facility’s land occupied by local community members who farm, said 1st Lt. Daniel Farfan, officer-in-charge of the Ie Shima training facility, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler.

Aside from the training facility, Ie Shima is a well-known tourist attraction on Okinawa. Many tourists go to Ie Shima by ferry to attend the Ie Shima Lily Festival, Pyle’s memorial and many other sites and events.
All operations at the training facility are managed by a few Marines at a small compound. They sleep, eat, work and exercise there.

Like many Marine Corps units, they wake, conduct physical training and prepare for work. On the day of an operation, the Marines are given a briefing in the morning and then conduct the operation. A typical work day usually lasts until 5 p.m., but some days training can last for hours on end.

After being assigned to the training facility, most Marines spend a six-month tour in Ie Shima. However, the officer-in-charge and staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge man the post for a year. The Marines who operate the facility are few in number but cover a whole spectrum of tasks. 

Sgt. Nathan Esplin, the chief range warden, Ie Shima training facility, oversees the overall range safety of the facility and ensures that units complete their training efficiently and on time. Prior to coming to Ie Shima, Esplin operated as a field wireman with 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, on Camp Schwab.

“This job is a really good experience for me,” said Esplin. “I was looking to challenge myself each day and Ie Shima training facility really gave me that challenge.”

After a long day, the Marines commence liberty on the island.

“It’s a little bit quieter than your typical military base,” said Lance Cpl. David Burkett, crew chief, crash fire rescue, Ie Shima training facility. “It’s peaceful, there are a lot less people.”

On weekends, some of the Marines return to mainland Okinawa, restocking on goods found in the commissary or visiting friends, he said.

Photo of the Day

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit led a run to Ground Zero, May 31. The majority of Marines with the 24th MEU joined the Marine Corps after the attacks of Sept. 11. More than 3,000 Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen in the area participating in community outreach events and equipment demonstrations as part of Fleet Week New York 2011. This is the 27th year New York has hosted the sea services for Fleet Week. (Photo by Sgt. Randall Clinton)