CHARLESTON, S.C. --
As America approaches the end of summer, a group of Marines with a diverse skill set embarked on a historical route through the Panama Canal and are set to traverse the Oceania region where they will experience the sizzling and humid summer season of the Southern Asia Pacific islands to conduct key leadership engagements and military relations.
The Marines from KOA MOANA, meaning Ocean Warrior, left Charleston, S.C., Sept. 4, aboard the USNS Lewis and Clark. During the four month international exercise, Marines will make stops at Fiji, French Polynesia, Timor Leste, Vanuatu and Kiribati.
The purpose of the exercise is to enhance senior military leader engagements between allied and partner nations with a collective interest in military-to-military and military-to-law enforcement relations.
The unit of Marines features a law enforcement platoon, an engineer platoon and a headquarters platoon mixed with a variety of Marine military occupational specialties. Marines will also work closely with a small detachment of Coast Guard and Navy personnel.
“I think having a diverse group of Marines will help us adapt to the aspects of training with these foreign countries who will have a variety of occupational skills themselves,” said Lt. Col. Demetrius Bolduc, commanding officer with KOA MOANA 15-3.
While training with other nations, the Marines will discuss key aspects of military operations, capability development and interoperability. This operation will showcase the Marine Corps team as the partner of choice for amphibious operations globally.
“Marines are always task-organizing for a variety of missions, and this group has come together conducting cohesion events and training opportunities that prepared us for this upcoming exercise,” said Bolduc.
For many of the Marines this will be their first deployment, and for most Marines, it’s their first time on ship and training with foreign forces.
They will be entering the Oceania region during the peak of cyclone and hurricane season and equipped with the tools and training to respond at moment’s notice.
“The training opportunities and ethos the Marines have displayed thus far will allow us to overcome any challenges,” Bolduc said. “We will have the flexibility to adapt to any unanticipated events.”
Oceania, which includes nearly 25,000 islands, is home to a variety of different cultures and languages.
“I think the cultural barrier will be the biggest challenge; the language piece is always hard but with the translators and the language training the Marines received, it’ll be less of a challenge for them,” said Staff Sgt. Robert J. Houser, platoon sergeant for engineer platoon, KOA MOANA 15-3.
If everything goes smooth these engagements will pave the way for enhanced security and stability as well as strengthen economic ties to benefit all, said Houser.
“The Marines have had some great training in the last few months, everything from the Marine field training exercise to the classes we’ve been teaching them,” said Houser.
This training could potentially lead to stronger relations in the south Pacific where freedom of movement and maneuver in the maritime domain is essential to a healthy, stable and prosperous region, said Bolduc.
“I think the exercise itself is a step forward for the Marine Corps. I think it’s great and I hope there is more that come down like this to spread out the Marine Corps’ knowledge to other countries and help other people,” said Houser. ““The Marines are excited; they can’t wait to get out there.”