CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines are no strangers to being in an unfamiliar place. Four Marines from 7th Engineer Support Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force and 8th ESB, II MEF are no exception as they spent part of January and February, 2017 in the Republic of Korea. The Marines gained a new perspective during the Korean Marine Exchange Program where they trained beside the South Korean Marines.
The K-MEP focuses on the combination of aviation and ground combat units, using various types of training that are designed to enhance the combat readiness of the U.S. and Korean troops. The ESB Marines assisted in ground operations by conducting various bridge exercises and rafting maneuvers alongside their Korean counterparts.
The U.S. Marines exchanged techniques with the Korean Marines, teaching them how they train on a daily basis, including demonstrating different tie-down techniques for connecting bridge pieces. They also practiced crossing from port to port using the bridges to transfer assets.
“There were a lot of times we had to converse with the Korean Marines using hand signals, but we were still able to relay the process we were trying to show them,” said Sgt. Thomas Davi, a combat engineer with 8th ESB.
Through overcoming the barrier in communication and successfully completing the training, they strengthened the existing relationship between Korean Marines and U.S. Marines.
“When working together in peace time you can build friendships and bonds,” Davi said. “Then in case of a future conflict, they are with us. There is already an established trust.”
Marines with 9th ESB, III MEF, based in Japan, regularly take part in the K-MEP, but this is the first time 7th and 8th ESB Marines had a chance to participate in the training.
“We conducted the operations in a setting different than we’re used to in California.” said Cpl. Rhett Farnell, a combat engineer with 7th ESB. “That really helps us get experience in different environments.”
By training in different and challenging environments the Marines gain experience and skills they can bring back and improve upon at their respective units.
“We know we’re not perfect, but working with the Korean units, we can take away the things we learned and apply it back at our units to make ourselves better,” Davi said.
The exchange helps us adapt to any situation. If there is a disaster across the globe or if a bridge gets destroyed, we can implement our skillset in any circumstance where that gap needs to be crossed, added Davi.
This exchange program gives not only II MEF, but all the units involved, the adaptability to be employable at a moment’s notice.
Davi is hopeful that the next time the opportunity arises for Marines from 8th ESB to participate in the exchange, more Marines can contribute and expand their knowledge as engineers.