CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Ten Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, completed a five-day operation, providing logistical support during Exercise Iron Fist 2014, Feb. 15, 2014.
Iron Fist 2014 is an amphibious exercise that brings together Marines and sailors from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, other I Marine Expeditionary Force units, and soldiers from the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, to promote military interoperability and to hone individual and small-unit skills through complex and realistic training.
Combat Logistics Battalion 15 is slated to deploy with the 15th MEU next year and is the logistics combat element of the MEU. During Iron Fist, they provided vital backing to the U.S. and Japanese forces training on San Clemente Island, providing ammunition, fuel, food, water and equipment.
“Essentially, we provided limited combat service support to the Japanese for Iron Fist,” said 2nd Lt. Nikolas Gillespie, officer-in-charge, Engineer Detachment, CLB-15.
This combat service support included providing more than 40 crates of 120mm and 80mm mortar rounds to Marine and Japanese mortarmen, distributing meals ready to eat, water, fuel, tents and generators to servicemembers training on the island.
“It’s extremely important to provide this support,” said Gillespie, a 24-year-old native of Limestone, Tenn. “If we weren’t there providing that combat service support, they would either have to do their own resupply, which would take away time from training, or bring their own [supplies with them], which would increase their footprint. The Marine Corps is supposed to be expeditious in nature, so if they have to bring all this gear with them, they are big and slow. We provide that support, so they can be quick and fast.”
For many of the Marines, it was their first time working with members of a foreign military. They learned to overcome obstacles such as a communication concerns and complete the mission at hand while learning a lot from each other.
“Working with the Japanese was very interesting and a great learning process,” said Gillespie. “At first there was a language barrier, but we learned some Japanese phrases as the operation went along. They were very easy to work with. They left it up to us to support them in the best way possible.”
They also left a lasting impression on the Marines.
“It’s interesting working with the Japanese,” said Lance Cpl. Richard J. Reilley, heavy equipment operator, Engineer Detachment, CLB-15. “They’re very eager to help. If they were anywhere in the area, they would be right over to help lift something or help with whatever I was doing. They wanted to make a good impression and help us, which I appreciated a lot.”
A combat service support team providing logistics to an exercise of this scale would conventionally consist of more than 10 Marines to fill the multiple billets that the mission requires. Fortunately, the Marines came prepared to overcome the challenges of having a small detachment.
“One of the things that really made this operation successful was the willingness of the Marines from CLB-15 to cross-train and become licensed and qualified in other equipment, and cover down on other missions,” said Gillespie. “Marines being able to fill multiple roles are what made this mission possible - Marines willing to do more than just the minimum.”
Reilley displayed that tenacity by filling a number of roles during the mission, including operating multiple tactical vehicles and heavy equipment.
“I’m glad I played a part in the exercise,” said Reilley, a native of Santa Rosa, Calif. “It’s such a big deal to everyone involved. I know they take it seriously and consider it to be a major training exercise. I’m glad I could take a part in it even though it was only for five days. I enjoyed it. I got to work in a field environment and build camaraderie. What’s not to enjoy?”