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U.S. Marines and ROK Marines breach a building under smoke concealment during Korean Marine Exchange Program 15-12 at Gunha-Rhi, Gimpo, Republic of Korea, Sept. 17, 2015. KMEP 15-12 is a bilateral training exercise that enhances the ROK and U.S. alliance, promotes stability on the Korean Peninsula and strengthens ROK and U.S. military capabilities and interoperability. The ROK Marines are with 1st Company, 11th Battalion, 1st Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. The U.S. Marines are with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force under the unit deployment program.

Photo by Cpl. Tyler Giguere

US, ROK Marines practice urban operations during KMEP 15-12

7 Oct 2015 | Cpl. Tyler Giguere III Marine Expeditionary Force

Heat beats down on asphalt, unlocking dams of sweat that pour off Marines during their advance toward a small town. Under smoke concealment, they sweep through house after house, lobbing grenades through doorways and barking verbal coordination over the explosions.

U.S. and Republic of Korea Marines conducted urban warfare training here, Sept. 17, 2015. Officially called Military Operations in Urban Terrain, the exercise was part of Korean Marine Exchange Program 15-12, a bilateral training exercise between the U.S. and Korea.

“Our mission is to take the town by eliminating all hostile threats and then moving onto the next assignment,” said ROK Marine Capt. Junggun Cho, the company commander for 2nd Company, 11th Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. “We’re going to launch a multi-pronged attack on the town, seizing it by moving building-to-building until it is entirely clear.”

Despite speaking different languages, communication remained effective throughout the mission. Clear cut decisions influenced every Marines actions according to Cho, from Jeju Island, ROK.

A four-man team of Marines set up security, lobbing smoke grenades into the street to cover their movement toward a building they were ordered to clear.

They formed a tight formation by the entrance. A Marine leaned toward it and yelled, "Frag Out!" while tossing through an M69 training grenade.

With threats on all sides in the urban terrain, the Marines kept their heads on a swivel, checking every possible threat location.

“Right side, clear! Left side, clear! Overhead, clear! Room, clear!” Marines shouted as they continued through the buildings.

“The assault teams move through the buildings and clear them out, section-by-section,” said U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Matt Shibata, a platoon commander with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force under the unit deployment program. “Once one portion of the building is cleared, the support team moves in to allow the assault team to advance. The security teams provide security around the building to prevent enemies from entering or exiting the building we are currently in.”

After the town was seized, the Marines met to critique their performance during the exercise.

“We go over the plan after it is completed with Marines of all ranks,” said Shibata, from Honolulu, Hawaii. “The reason being is every Marine in this situation could spot problems that the officers may overlook or were unable to see in the confusion of battle.”

The Marines of both countries agreed they had accomplished the mission.

“The success of today’s mission shows just how far we have come with our counterparts,” said Shibata. “We have been working together for about a week, and we can already execute company sized drills together.”