PYEONGCHANG-GUN, South Korea --
U.S. Marines prepare for a 35- km hike by going through a 10- km looped course every day for a week. They were joined side by side with the Republic of Korea Marines as well. The Marines are hiking through Korean terrain as part of mountain warfare training during Korean Marine Exchange Program 15-3.
The U.S. Marines are reconnaissance Marines with Alpha Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
The Marines are working alongside ROK Force Reconnaissance Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division.
The march began in the early morning hours with thick fog and snow fall. Ice and snow made the already difficult route treacherous.
“We had been preparing for this hike for a long while now and hiking is a norm for us,” said U.S. Marine Cpl. Cesare D. Marin, a reconnaissance Marine with Alpha Company, 3rd Recon Bn. “It has definitely been difficult getting used to the ice though, with this heavy of a pack it’s easy to hit the ground hard.”
With the high difficulty of the slopes the ROK Marines stepped in and offered their knowledge on snow mobility and crossing the mountain.
“We offered our help and the (U.S. Marines) were grateful. (the U.S. Marines were) eagerly willing to learn and adapt to this rough terrain,” said ROK Marine Cpl. Jay S. Park, an assistant radio operator with Delta Company, 2nd Bn. “We gave them clamp-ons, which are a spike sort of device that makes walking in icy areas become easier.”
The ROK and U.S. Marines quickly built trust amongst each other. The camaraderie accrued from their mutual struggle to overcome the obstacles they faced.
“The Marines are great hikers, all of them kept up with us without a problem even in this new terrain,” said ROK Marine Gunnery Sgt. Kim Choi Sun, a team leader with Bravo Company, 2nd Bn.“They even went as far as to run down the hills, and one team even went past the stopping point and continued the last few (kilometers) to the summit.”
Afterwards the Marines shared meals together and enjoyed building fires and sharing the warmth side-by-side.
“We have been eating very similar food day after day and to have the U.S. Marines share their food was a welcome break,” said ROK Marine Sgt. Dae Hyun Lee, a point man with Charlie Company, 2nd Bn. “We cooked our own ramen and the U.S. Marines quickly began trading and creating quite a funny scene for everyone there, it was a lot of fun to be amongst it all. I felt like I was in America’s Wall Street!”
KMEP 15-3 is just one iteration in a series of continuous combined training exercises designed to enhance the ROK-U.S. alliance, promote stability on the Korean Peninsula and strengthen ROK-U.S. military capabilities and interoperability. This provides trust and bonding between ROK and U.S. Marines, as well as valuable winter and mountain warfare training for the U.S. Marines.