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U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 2d Marines, provide security during Counter Assault Exercise on Okinawa, Japan, May 11, 2022. During this force-on-force exercise, an infantry company with 3/2 rapidly deployed into the double-canopy jungles of the Northern Training Area to defend against an assault from another infantry company with 1st Battalion, 3d Marines. This exercise was designed to increase 3d Marine Division’s ability to seize and defend key maritime terrain, such as islands or coastal areas, and conduct Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations in the western Pacific. 3/2 is deployed under 4th Marines, 3d Marine Division as part of the Unit Deployment Program. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Micha Pierce)

Photo by Sgt. Micha Pierce

Marines rehearse defending key maritime terrain from assault

8 Nov 2021 | Sgt. Micha Pierce 3rd Marine Division

OKINAWA, JAPAN – Holding camouflaged defensive positions in the jungles of northern Okinawa, U.S. Marines readied to repel an attack from an opposing force aiming to seize the island during a combat rehearsal, dubbed the “Counter Assault Exercise,” from May 9 to May 12, 2022.

The Counter Assault Exercise, which took place amid days of unrelenting rain storms, was a force-on force training evolution between Marines with 3d Battalion, 2d Marines (3/2) and 1st Battalion, 3d Marines (1/3). Marines from both battalions utilized the opportunity to strengthen their abilities to seize or defend key maritime terrain from an aggressor force and to operate across some of the most challenging terrain of the Indo-Pacific region.

The exercise started with the Marines of 3/2 acting as part of stand-in forces responding to a regional threat by seizing key terrain through a joint vertical assault and immediately preparing to defend it from a counter assault by an adversary of numerically superior force. The plan called for the Marines insert via MV-22B Ospreys along with Marine Corps and Navy helicopter support, demonstrating the ability to move forces rapidly from island-to-island or from ship-to-shore.

“One of the key outcomes of this exercise is that we were able to validate and refine our capabilities and our techniques to both employ Marines as stand-in forces in the Western Pacific, as well as rely on joint assets for aviation support and communications,” said Lt. Col. Charles Nash, commanding officer of 3/2.

The exercise forced 3/2 to insert into a dense double-canopy jungle, identify advantageous defensive positions, and swiftly respond to and successfully defend an advance from an opposing force. It also offered an additional challenge of maintaining communications in a difficult environment while employing signature management techniques.

"One of the great advantages of training in the Northern Training Area of the Okinawa jungle is that it gives us an opportunity to rehearse our long-range, low-emissions communications … to mask both our physical signature and our electromagnetic signatures,” stated Nash.

The training focusing on the lethality of small, distributed units of Marines operating as stand-in forces in the first island chain.

“One of the things we enjoy about training in northern Okinawa,” Nash continued, “is that this environment resembles much of the terrain within the first island chain … through the course of rehearsals and very tough realistic training, we are able to not just survive but thrive in and compete in this environment.”