Written by Edward White | Photography by Dallas Nagata White

 

A few weeks ago, Dallas and I discovered that RIMPAC was holding an amphibious insertion, much like the one she took photos of in 2010. Remembering the experience from two years ago, Dallas asked to participate in hopes of seeing all these nations work together again.

For those of you who don’t know, RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime exercise, and is held every two years in Honolulu, Hawaii. The official exercise mission statement is to “improve interoperability between Pacific Rim Armed Forces,” which is Mil-Speak for “help everyone work better together.”

After we arrived at the Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe, the public affairs team promptly drove us to the insertion site. Unlike last year, the weather was relatively clear, and we were greeted with a scenic view of pyramid rock with the USS Essex Amphibious Assault Ship preparing to deploy its payload in the distance.

Shortly after our arrival, LTCDR Mason Stalker (Canadian Infantry) and LTC Eric Blanchard (USMC) briefed us on the scope of the operation, which would include an amphibious insertion and a helo insertion, which would culminate in a live-fire assault. The assault force was part of the Combined Force Land Component Command (a small portion of the overall exercise command, which is estimated to include over 19,000 sailors), and included members from the Australian, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Tongan militaries, in addition to U.S. Marines.

The mission commanders were quick to emphasize that, while the scenario told the story of a military intervention in support of a small, nameless Pacific nation that was under siege, the skills practiced in the exercise could be used across a large variety of missions, including humanitarian aid. The overall theme of the press interview was tightly focused on how the exercise was mean to help these nations work with each other safely and effectively.

After the interview, the commanders pointed to small dark objects followed by white wakes in the distance and said the amphibious vehicles had deployed and were en route. In 2010, the weather made it unsafe to attempt an amphibious assault, but the clear skies this year allowed us to finally witness what it looked like for an Australian rifle company to come ashore. It was pretty impressive.

As soon as the vehicles reached shore, our escorts rushed us to the vans so we could witness the air insertion as well. There had been no air insertion in 2010, so we were excited for the opportunity to get pictures.

Afterwards, we were hurried to the live-fire range so we could witness the assault.

After the assault, Capt. Daniel Petronzio (the officer in charge of the combined company conducting the assault) talked with the media about his experience leading the multinational task force.

 

CPT Petronzio emphasized the importance of the exercise, as it allowed those nations to familiarize themselves with each others’ technologies, tactics, habits, and differing skill levels in different areas of operation. He said the exercise allowed each nation to make mistakes and identify shortcomings in the safety of a training environment, allowing the multinational force to be more effective and confident in an operational environment. He also noted that it was also important to just get to know each other and cultivate friendly interpersonal relationships in the region. This is all increasingly important as more nations are joining the exercise every iteration, either as participants or observers.

As we drove away, Dallas and I were impressed at how so many groups were able to come together and work so well in unison. Even to the trained observer, the exercise went very well, in spite of all the different nations with differing training working together, and we were happy to witness cooperation like this happening right here on Oahu, the Gathering Place.