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III Marine Expeditionary Force

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Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan
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Bringing Marines to the fight

By Cpl. Kelsey Dornfeld | III Marine Expeditionary Force | April 11, 2017

Marines and Sailors from III Marine Expeditionary Force joined the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force for exercise Forest Light 17-1, March 5-17, 2017. Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing supported the JGSDF and 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment utilizing the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.

The ground combat element and air combat element regularly work together as part of the Marine Air Ground Task Force, according to LtCol Bryan Swenson, the commanding officer for VMM 265.

“Exercises like this are a great opportunity for us to not only support our ground combat element but also to work with our allies in support of the JGSDF,” said Swenson, who is from Kansas City, Missouri.

VMM 265 was able to move a combined, battalion-sized force in and out of the objective area and support fast rope and casualty evacuation drills during the exercise.

“The powerhouse of the Marine Corps is the MAGTF,” said Sgt. Matthew Bennett, 1st squad leader with 3rd Platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. “The way the Marine Corps is able to project their power is through the Marine air ground team.”

VMM 265’s primary role was to provide logistical support for Forest Light by moving troops.

“Training with the aviation community greatly enhances our abilities,” said Bennett who is from Bear, Denver. “It gets us ready for the next war, next conflict or the next humanitarian crisis that we may be called to.”

Forest Light allowed the MAGTF to train and adapt to different weather conditions and terrain. The Marines are stationed in Okinawa, Japan where the weather is often warm and humid. The first thing they encountered when they arrived in the Gunma prefecture was snow and icing conditions which created acclimation challenges for both the air and ground combat elements.

“The true power of the Marine Corps is it’s ability to use our air platforms, Marine organic close air support and Marine platforms to get them where they need to be,” said Bennett, who has previous experience in the aviation community as an air traffic controller.

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