Marines arrive in Tonga

16 Aug 2011 | Cpl. Salvador Moreno

Approximately 60 Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, arrived in the Kingdom of Tonga for Exercise Tafakula 2011 Aug. 9.

The multilateral exercise between the U.S. Marines, Tongan Defense Service and French Armed Forces, New Caledonia will increase joint operations and improve U.S. military-to-military relations with foreign services.

The three services are expected to share tactics and procedures while conducting operations in unfamiliar terrain.

“The majority of it will take place in and around Camp Taliai,” said 2nd Lt. Joel Steele, rifle platoon commander for 3/5. “It really benefits us with interoperability piece and the ability to get out here in a new location with new people and conduct our training.”

Tonga, coined as the “friendly islands” since Capt. James Cook first visited in 1773, is located in the South Pacific Ocean and consists of more than 150 islands, 30 of which are inhabited.

The TDS greeted the Marines and sailors with a warm welcome followed by a quick orientation of the base and customs and courtesies.

“They are an amazing people,” Steele said. “They have been absolutely great so far and are very gracious hosts.”

The Marines, sailors and soldiers of all three militaries will use multiple training areas to conduct fire team, squad and platoon level operations in the upcoming weeks.

The joint exercise is slated to begin with an opening ceremony Aug. 10 and conclude Aug. 29.