AT SEA— Marines and Sailors of 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Boxer Amphibious Ready Group headed to paradise to conduct Exercise Tropic Thunder in Hawaii, Aug. 30 through Sept. 1, 2013.
Tropic Thunder marked the first exercise of the unit’s Western Pacific Deployment. The exercise provided an opportunity to sustain operability and demonstrate capabilities to include amphibious landing, long-range ship-to-shore movement and land-based tactical maneuvers.
Hawaii provides a unique training opportunity for West Coast MEUs as it allows for the full Marine Air-Ground Task Force to conduct training en route to the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility, said Maj. Stuart Glenn, acting operations officer for Tropic Thunder.
“Most MEUs do not have an opportunity to sustain the core competencies they trained to throughout the pre-deployment work-up unless they are able to conduct training such as this in Hawaii,” Glenn said. “Anytime you can focus on your core competencies is a win. Brilliance at the basics takes multiple repetitions and this training allowed for that.”
The exercise was two-fold. In addition to training, 13th MEU showcased its Aviation Combat Element and provided an opportunity to showcase Marine Wing Tiltrotor Squadron-166 (Reinforced) MV-22B Osprey helicopters. Two static displays of the 57-foot-long, 38-propellor rotary helicopter welcomed residents to get up close and personal with the MV-22B Osprey, which can carry approximately 25 personnel, 20,000lbs of internal cargo and 15,000lbs of external cargo for more than 600 nautical miles.
The MV-22B Osprey is twice as fast as the average helicopter, said Capt. Jason Treece, VMM-166 (REIN) MV-22B Osprey pilot. Marines afforded Congressmen and women, civilians and media the opportunity to fly in the helicopter during a short demonstration. Marine Corps Base Konaohe Bay is slated to bring home approximately two-dozen Ospreys in 2015.
“We successfully launched 4 Ospreys 600 miles from ship to the island, which was the first time that has ever happened,” Treece said. “This would not be possible in any other helicopter. It’s a powerful capability to the MEU quiver.”
The Marines have been training for more than six months during pre-deployment training exercises like Iron Fist 2013 with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and are slated to conduct interoperability training with partner nations as they transit the Pacific.