MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
When a motor transportation operator is in a combat situation, knowledge and experience may play a huge factor in determining the outcome: life or death.
Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 is currently preparing to participate in Exercise Thunder Horse in Hara-mura, Japan.
The mission of the exercise is to train and better prepare the squadron for mobility and combat operations.
During MWSS-171’s previous exercises, e.g. Integrated Training Exercise, Forager Fury II and last year’s Thunder Horse, they focused on the support role for other units and were not given an adequate amount of opportunities to focus on small-unit leadership, according to Maj. Gary F. Humphries, operations officer with MWSS-171 Motor Transportation.
“Last year, this exercise was mainly ran by the senior leadership, rather than giving the noncommissioned officers a chance to lead,” said 1st Lt. Alexander W. Cloninger, operations platoon commander with MWSS-171 Motor Transportation. “The biggest aspect here is allowing the sergeants and senior corporals to lead a convoy.”
When the sun goes down, challenges increase due to lower visibility.
Blackout is a term used by motor transportation operators and means exactly what it sounds like; no sun, no headlights and no alternate light source.
“Conducting blackout convoy operations is key in our ability to sustain logistics operations and support our mission in case we have to execute any AO (area of operation) plans,” said Humphries.
According to Humphries, Hara-mura is a Japan Self-Defense Force training area and provides MWSS-171 with more opportunities and a larger amount of space for accomplishing the mission of the exercise. Some benefits include: the ability to take the vehicles off asphalt, conduct blackout drills and other operations on unfamiliar roads.
Given a fair amount of positives coming from the exercise, some negatives may come from it as well, but according to Capt. George A. Ivascu Jr., company commander with MWSS-171 Motor Transportation, the negatives that may occur throughout the exercise will not affect the Marines of the squadron; they will only provide minor speed bumps.
Through the duration of the exercise, MWSS-171’s Marines may have to sacrifice liberty time in order to increase proficiency in their military occupational specialty.
“I think the duration of the exercise will be a good experience overall,” said Ivascu.
The exercise will allow MWSS-171 Marines a chance for vertical bonding throughout the ranks to make a stronger and more effective squadron, added Humphries.
According to Humphries, MWSS-171 Marines will have a greater sense of natural instinct, discipline and self-reliance upon their return to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, in May. With the training, MWSS-171 Marines will be able to respond faster than their enemies in a combat situation, said Humphries.