OKINAWA, Japan -- Marines and Sailors with 3d Marine Division and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing showcased expeditionary advanced basing capabilities Oct. 7 to 8, 2020 as part of Exercise Noble Fury 21, from Okinawa to Ie Shima and across surrounding waters.
Demonstrating the ability to dominate a near-peer adversary in a distributed environment, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force integrated with naval and joint forces to seize, defend, and conduct follow-on operations from key maritime terrain in support of sea control and sea denial efforts.
More than 100 Marines with 1st Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment flowed into “battle” on MV-22 Ospreys from 1st MAW and rapidly inserted into Ie Shima to defeat adversary forces, secure the airfield, and establish defensive positions around the island. With support from multiple AH-1Z attack helicopters, the infantry Marines successfully defeated an enemy counter-attack attempt and maintained security for further missions from the expeditionary advanced base.
“As a force that is highly trained, disciplined and lethal, we are out here exercising our part in distributed operations,” said Lt. Col. Gabriel Diana, the commanding officer of 1st Bn., 2d Marines and a leader with combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Today, our mission is to conduct an air assault to secure an airfield on a nearby island to facilitate follow-on operations including a HIMARS rapid infiltration. Our ability to rapidly seize and operate from critical maritime terrain will support naval operations to ensure we are ready to fulfill our treaty obligations to Japan and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
In the cover of darkness, a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launcher with 3d Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment flew into the recently secured airfield on an Air Force MC-130J that night. Upon landing, Marines swiftly positioned the HIMARS launcher to simulate a long-range, precision firing mission with targeting information received and coordinated while aboard the aircraft in flight. Minutes later, the HIMARS was back aboard the aircraft to exfiltrate and move to its next firing point at a different location.
“HIMARS provides a highly mobile and accurate ground-based fires capability with significant range,” said Capt. Ralph Biddle, a battery commander with 3d Bn., 12th Marines whose unit has mastered HIMARS Rapid Infiltration (HIRAIN) missions. “Executing HIRAINs enables us to extend the range of our rockets to support naval and joint operations across a distributed environment.”
Meanwhile, the infantry Marines continued to maintain security across the island to preserve the EAB for supporting fleet operations at sea.
“My Marines have prepared for these types of missions through a significant amount of training before coming out to Japan on the Unit Deployment Program,” said Sgt. Cal Cushinghurley, a squad leader with 1st Bn., 2d Marines. “I knew they would perform well because their training has made them confident and ready for combat, and this mission is another good opportunity to prove themselves.”
Receiving an order to displace, CH-53E Super Stallions arrived and the Marines were on the move again to prepare for follow-on missions.
“This operation demonstrated how we can be both survivable and extremely lethal through distributed operations in the littorals,” said Col. Jason Perry, assistant division commander for 3d Marine Division. “Leveraging our partnerships and interoperability with joint and allied forces, we can deter and defeat any adversary that threatens peace and security in the region.”
Noble Fury 21 is a joint exercise involving Marines and Sailors from III Marine Expeditionary Force and 7th Fleet and part of ongoing integrated training between the Navy and Marine Corps.