JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii - More than 190 Marines from 1st Marine Expeditionary Force embarked as Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force ASEAN to showcase the MAGTF’s territorial defense, humanitarian aid and disaster relief capabilities in support of U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, during his visit alongside delegates from the Association of Southeast Asian Countries in Hawaii, April 2, 2014.
Approximately 130 Marines and sailors with Headquarters Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Medical Battalion, 1st Dental Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 15 and 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, set up a static display exhibit aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and answered questions from ASEAN delegates and media personnel.
“We showed the capabilities of the Navy-Marine Corps team in a physical manner,” said Lt. Col. Mark T. Donar, commanding officer, SPMAGTF-ASEAN. “We were able to showcase our equipment and the Navy’s ability to bring our equipment to the forefront.”
Among the resources showcased were soil sampling and construction equipment, a lightweight water purification system, field expedient medical capabilities and different transportation vehicles that could be used as emergency vehicles or to transport supplies.
As subject matter experts with firsthand experience on their equipment, the Marines and sailors were able to increase the international public’s understanding of what the Navy-Marine corps team can do during disaster situations, and built rapport with foreign officials and militaries.
“There were delegates from 10 Southeast Asian nations who attended, and the Marines were able to interact with them,” said Donar, of Westmont, Ill. “Oftentimes, we don’t get the ability to tell our story, and here, we had the younger Marines explain our capabilities and share their experiences to generals, admirals and the Secretary of Defense. It was an incredible opportunity for the Marines.”
Historically, Southeast Asia has been a region susceptible to extreme weather conditions. The most recent natural disaster was that of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, Nov. 3-11, 2013. During the incident, the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force mobilized out of Japan and assisted in disaster relief, treating casualties and stabilizing the area.
“We don’t treat only patients with battlefield injuries,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Catherine S. Nutting, a corpsman and surgical technician with 1st Medical Bn., attached to SPMAGTF-ASEAN. “If an area is hit by a typhoon or an earthquake and people get injured or sick, we can provide them with minor surgical treatments, X-ray services, pharmacies and laboratories.”
Nutting was one of the servicemembers who directly interacted with the media and delegates, showing them the capabilities of the shock trauma platoon during a humanitarian aid and disaster relief operation.
“The minister of defense of Malaysia talked to me and was very interested in our field medical capabilities,” said Nutting, of North Conway, N.H. “I know all the Marines and sailors felt very comfortable speaking in public, and it felt like we were able to help them further understand what we can bring to the table.”
Another Marine who had the chance to explain his job was Cpl. Michael Sanchez, a combat engineer with Bravo Company, 7th ESB. Sanchez has experience in using the construction equipment, which he showcased during the exhibit to build shelters, medical facilities and schools during a humanitarian relief operation.
“[U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel] is one of the top men in the country, alongside different generals and officials from around the world,” said Sanchez, of Los Angeles. “They were all here at our level, looking to see what we can do for them. It was a really awesome experience for all of us involved.”
In addition to 1st MLG, more combat-oriented units such as Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, also set up displays for their equipment, showing the MAGTF’s territorial defense capabilities and emphasizing its ability to provide security for humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations in a hostile environment.
After the static display and a tour of Anchorage, Hagel led the delegates and media to a conference on the ship’s deck,where Marine Corps and Navy officials touched on the importance of the Navy-Marine team and its role as a quick response force in Southeast Asia.
After the conference ended, two MV-22B Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, attached to SPMAGTF-ASEAN, conducted a multi-stage fly-by, further highlighting the Navy-Marine Corps team’s capability to rapidly respond to situations and bring supplies and aid wherever needed.
SPMAGTF-ASEAN maintained its static displays from April 1-4, 2014, allowing public access to the equipment. It departed from Hawaii aboard Anchorage to conduct further training at sea on April 7, 2014.