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NEWS | June 29, 2015

U.S. Marines Embark on USNS Sacagawea to begin Exercise Koa Moana 15.2

By Cpl. Reba James Marine Rotational Force - Darwin

A platoon of U.S. Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, have been preparing for the bilateral training exercise Koa Moana 15.2 in Dili, East Timor, beginning June 22.

The Marines will highlight the exercise by focusing on the fundamentals of squad and platoon-level tasks with the East Timor Defence Force.

“We are here to conduct a bilateral training evolution and will be training alongside one platoon of the land component of the East Timor Defense Force’s naval force and one platoon of their Marines, which they refer to as F-FDTL (Falintil-Forças de Defesa de Timor Leste),” said 1st Lt. Christopher Wisnowski, 1st platoon commander for Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, MRF – D.

The bilateral training exercise allows the Marines to share their tactics, techniques and procedures with our international partner, strengthening understanding of each other’s standard operating procedures.

“For this training evolution, we will be covering MOUT, which is military operations in urban terrain,” said Wisnowski. “We will be sharing our tactics of MOUT training from an individual level up to the squad level, which includes room clearing, urban patrolling and moving from building to building.”

“I feel like [the exercise] will benefit a lot of the Marines,” said LCpl. Juan Herrera, a rifle team leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, MRF-D and a native of Oakland, California. “Being able to work with another foreign military can be difficult because of a language barrier, but they are open to learning how we conduct training during this exercise. They are disciplined, nice and are good people.”

Aside from the bilateral training, the Marines are experiencing and adapting to ship life aboard the USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE-2) going to and coming from East Timor. The U.S. Navy Dry Cargo/Ammunition ship is part of an initiative to employ alternative sea-based platforms for embarking Marines in addition to traditional amphibious warfare ships to enhance maritime flexibility.

“What’s amazing about this in coming from Marine Rotational Force - Darwin is the ability to get on a platform such as this, the T-AKE (U.S. Navy Dry Cargo/Ammunition) ship, specifically the USNS Sacagawea and project from Darwin to conduct this training here,” said Wisnowski. “It’s been a great experience for the Marines to interact with the civilian mariners on the ship and it shows our ability to use alternate means of transportation to get to places to complete a mission.”

The platoon of Marines taking part in Koa Moana 15.2 demonstrates and establishes how the ground combat element is equipped and organized to carry out national objectives in cooperation with our national and international partners.

“I’m really excited for this and for the Marines, because there are multiple professional development opportunities here,” said Wisnowski. “We are able to get on this alternate shipping platform and experience being on ship, which is a great learning tool for the Marines and also coming here and training with another country provides the opportunity to learn about their history, their growth and development as a military force, and also to experience a different culture than what we are used to coming from the United States.”

“As a part of the MRF-D, we are doing bilateral training more or less in the same manner as we are doing back in Australia with the Australian Army,” added Herrera.

The Marines are scheduled to conduct their bilateral exercise in East Timor and engage with the local community in several opportunities during their stay in the country.

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