Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mongolian Armed Forces members, U.S. Marines train side-by-side

FIVE HILLS TRAINING AREA, Mongolia - Bang! A hand grenade goes off. Mongolian role players yell, “Help me!” as they pretend to be injured from the training grenade.

This scene transpired June 24 in the large, grassy field of Five Hills Training Area, Mongolia, as Mongolian Armed Forces service members and U.S. Marines and sailors trained side-by-side during combat first aid training at Exercise Khaan Quest 2014.

This was not the first time the service members worked together; they executed convoy operations training June 23, instructed by members of the Australian, German and Czech Republic Armies. The exercise is designed to enhance military-to-military relations between the U.S., Mongolia, and other international forces throughout the world.

KQ14 is a regularly scheduled, multinational exercise hosted annually by Mongolian Armed Forces and co-sponsored this year by U.S. Army, Pacific, and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. KQ14 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises designed to promote regional peace and security. This year marks the 12th iteration of this training event.

“Generally, missions are very international, so it’s important that you train internationally before you go to a mission,” said German Army Capt. Christian Seckler, a convoy operations instructor during KQ14 and an instructor at the German Armed Forces United Nations Training Center in Hammelburg, Germany, and an armed reconnaissance officer for the German Army. “The worst case would be if the first time working together was during a mission, especially since every country has their own standards and operations. We can also learn from each other when we speak about experiences or train together because every time you see another way to do something, you can think ‘perhaps there are some advantages to that way’ and you could say ‘hey, that’s something that I can use for my unit.’ So I think it’s important that we train together.”

The service members practiced how to maintain safe distances, how to properly check for improvised explosive devices (IED) and how to secure the area around a suspected IED during the convoy operations training. During the combat first aid training, the participants learned how to take life-saving steps safely in a conflicted environment.

“Each nation trains differently, so if they teach one standard across the board at the most basic level, then everyone can build off of that and work well together,” said U.S. Marine Cpl. Justin Cleland, a squad leader and infantryman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, which is currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program. All of Company C is participating in KQ14.

The exercise will help with future real-world situations because the participating nations will have insight as to how other nations operate, according to Cleland, a native of Fredericksburg, Texas.
KQ 14 also provides the service members an opportunity to work on their problem solving skills.

“(This event) is special because it is mixed with Mongolian and U.S. service members,” said Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Capt. Yusuke Minagi, a convoy operations instructor at KQ14 and an international peace activity training officer from Shizuoka, Japan. “Communication is a problem. Most Asian countries cannot speak English very well, so if you conduct missions together, you have to think of something to solve the language barrier, especially since an interpreter is not always enough. Each squad or platoon cannot have an interpreter, so before you start a mission, use an interpreter to talk about the mission and come up with a set way to communicate.”

The Mongolians and U.S. Marines found that using hand and arm gestures and body language helped get across what they were trying to say.

“It’s definitely a challenge with the language barrier, but I think it went well,” said Cleland. “We’ve been using hand and arm signals and body language. I know for me, for instance, I was trying to tell the guys to ‘back up.’ It was a little challenging, but we got through it, and it worked.”

The exercise provides an ideal platform for participating nations to demonstrate military-to-military interoperability, improve peacekeeping operations capabilities, enhance relationships and increase multinational cooperation. In addition to Mongolia and the United States, military personnel from Australia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Japan, Nepal, Poland, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, Tajikistan, and the United Kingdom are participating or observing.

“Khaan Quest is important because we train in a lot of things, and it’s good to practice (together),” said Mongolian Armed Forces Sgt. Sh. Bayaragnai, a combat first-aid instructor and a military nurse. “It’s important to work with the different nations because we need cooperation and cross education, which gives an advantage (for future interactions).”

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