POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii --
Since 2007, the Pohakuloa Training Area has hosted Hawaii-based Marines for the predeployment training exercise known as Lava Viper. Marines utilize its expansive landscape to conduct live fire training exercises which aren’t possible on neighboring islands due to various land restrictions.
More than 1,350 personnel from 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment; Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment; Combat Assault Company, Combat Logistics Group 3; and Marine Aircraft Group 24 are currently training together at PTA in preparation for 1/3’s upcoming deployment later this year.
“PTA serves as an opportunity for squad and platoon live fire as well as incorporating the use of combined arms with our Weapons Company mortar systems, artillery and air support,” said Maj. Roberto Martinez, executive officer, 1/3. “It’s also an opportunity to exercise command and control via the battalion [Center of Command] along with the company COCs.”
Martinez said improvements to this year’s PTA training include artillery support from Echo Battery, 2/12, and aircraft integration.
“Our mission at PTA is preparation for Mojave Viper,” said Capt. Rogelio Maese, pilot training officer, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363. “We’re out here supporting the ground units, specifically artillery and the grunts, doing anything from moving cargo to moving [passengers], to getting our own personnel training complete. We’re scheduled to go to Afghanistan the beginning of next year, so this is the building blocks for our younger pilots and as a squadron as a whole building up to the evolution of going out there.”
Combat Logistics Battalion 3 is assisting the units training at PTA through supporting logistical elements such as motor transportation, communications, utilities and ammunition.
“Our mission is to support all the units such as 1/3, 2/12, CAC, and MAG-24,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Holcomb, company gunnery sergeant, CLB-3. “It’s important for us to show our support, because with us being here, it makes their mission easier.”
Throughout the training area and at the base medical center, the battalion’s hospital corpsmen are continually working to keep the Marines healthy for training.
Navy Lt. Jon Malone, battalion surgeon, 1/3, said the battalion’s corpsmen are not only providing emergency and routine medical care for the Marines at PTA, but they are also training on the same ranges and shooting houses as the Marines.
“Our first mission is to train ourselves,” Malone said. “We have a potentially difficult upcoming deployment with 1/3 in Afghanistan. So I want [our corpsmen] to get the confidence they need, and as much training as possible because the Marines out there are going to be depending on them for their safety and health.”
Teaming up with the battalion’s medical team, 21st Dental Company from Marine Corps Base Hawaii is also supporting Lava Viper to help improve overall medical readiness.
“Twenty-first Dental is seeing about fifty people per day, throughout the companies,” Martinez said. “Because of them being out here, we’ve increased our readiness to over 90 percent across the battalion.”
The less time Marines have to spend in medical or dental, the more time they can spend training in the field, said Cmdr. G. F. “Jay” Rubio, dentist, 21st Dental Company.
With continual support from air, ground and medical, the Marines are more than a week into their Lava Viper training exercise.
"Being [in the field] for eight or nine days straight, the Marines are much more focused on the training,” said 2nd Lt. Michael Eady, 2nd Platoon commander, Alpha Company, 1/3. “It brings out the leadership in the Marines and they teach their Marines better because they know they're not going home at the end of the day. They’re out here to do their jobs. It’s an excellent training area out here for us."
Lava Viper training for 1/3 will conclude around July 21st. The Lava Dogs expect to begin the six-week long Mojave Viper training at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., beginning Sept. 7.