A rubber knife fight and a Tongan hymn punctuated the first day of live-fire training on the “Big Island” of Hawaii Friday during this year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise.
Twenty-five nations, more than 45 surface ships and submarines, 17 national land forces, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are involved in the drills, scheduled to run through Aug. 2 in Hawaii and Southern California.
The 3rd Marine Regiment, comprised of 2,500 Marines, is training with eleven nations at the Mars-like Pohakuloa Training Area, a lava-swept plateau in the shadow the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanos.
The training involved four-man fire teams reacting to frontal ambushes by shooting at green pop-up targets.
It’s preparation for more complex operations later in the month, according to one of the participants, 2nd Lt. William Bourque, 23, of Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J., who leads 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Marine Battalion.
“What we’re looking for is to give our fire team leaders (a chance) to step up and incorporate patrolling techniques,” Bourque said.
One team leader, Lance Cpl. Charles Hafner, 27, of Chantilly, Va., wasn’t intimidated by the challenge.
“When you get assigned a [leadership position] in the Marine Corps it’s because you did something right,” he said.
Back at base camp Berserker Company 1st Sergeant William Radebaugh, 37, from Huntington Beach, Calif., a fourth degree blackbelt in Marine martial arts, practiced hand-to-hand combat with a Japanese soldier.
Both managed to tag each other with rubber training knives but Radebaugh prevailed by disarming his counterpart and taking him to the dirt in front a multinational audience.
As the troops settled in for the night 30 Tongan Marines, who represent a third of their small country’s amphibious forces, sang a hymn about the history of their island.
“We’re here to come together more than just as fighting forces, but as people,” Bourque said.
After the live fire training, the Marines will load aboard Australian and U.S. ships and conduct amphibious and air assaults onto the islands of Oahu and Kauai.
© 2018 the Stars and Stripes
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.