CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa - As dirt and rocks fly through the air, Marines take position among the trees, securing the site against possible enemy incursions. The feeling of controlled chaos is over shortly after it begins, as the Marines board the awaiting helicopters to execute their next mission.
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, engaged in insertion-and-extraction training with CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters July 30 at Landing Zone Falcon in the Central Training Area.
The battalion is currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program.
The CH-46E and aircrew are with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF.
“The mission was to gather intelligence about a landing zone and get the information to higher headquarters,” said 1st Lt. Christopher M. Toomer, a platoon commander with the battalion. “We keep our skills proficient, in terms of helicopter operations and basic infantry skills, by doing this every few weeks.”
The communication and sharing of intelligence was a two-way street during the training evolution, with the chain of command careful to provide the Marines with the information they needed to successfully plan and prepare for heliborne operations.
“I let my Marines know what the enemy situation is and the picture that has been painted from our leaders,” said Toomer. “I want to make sure that they have all the information that I have. This helps them make better decisions to complete the mission.”
The hot and humid climate of Okinawa coupled with unique terrain offers a training environment that helps further prepare the Marines to operate in austere conditions throughout the Asia-Pacific region, according to Toomer. It is similar to what they might experience during a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operation or other contingencies in the region.
“The Marines understand that sometimes circumstances will arise where they will have to complete a mission in this (climate),” said Toomer. “We make sure that they understand why we are doing the training and remind them to stay ready for any mission.”
During this particular training, the ground forces were not the only unit to benefit from the fast paced tempo.
The aircrews enjoy working with the UDP infantry battalions and conducting insertion and extraction training, according to Capt. Joseph P. McConnell, a pilot with the squadron.
“These are always the most fun missions we do,” said McConnell. “It’s great to be able to get the (Marines) where they need to go and do it well.”
With the training exercise a success, the Marines are scheduled to move on to more advanced training to ensure expeditionary readiness.
“We are going to do more live-fire scenarios,” said Toomer. “The Marines will go farther into tree lines, patrol with fire teams, and increase the numbers up to platoon-level operations.”
3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, is scheduled to participate in several exercises while participating in the UDP and will return to Marine Corps Base Hawaii later this year.