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A Marine takes the last drag of his cigarette before conducting a live fire drill at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018.
A Marine takes the last drag of his cigarette before conducting a live fire drill at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
A Marine takes the last drag of his cigarette before conducting a live fire drill at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018.
A Marine takes the last drag of his cigarette before conducting a live fire drill at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
Marines secure a hill at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018.
Marines secure a hill at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
A Tongan Marine finds concealment at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018.
A Tongan Marine finds concealment at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
1st Sgt. William Radebaugh, Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines takes down his Japanese counterpart at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018.
1st Sgt. William Radebaugh, Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines takes down his Japanese counterpart at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
1st Sgt. William Radebaugh, Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines lunges at his Japanese counterpart with a rubber knife at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018.
1st Sgt. William Radebaugh, Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines lunges at his Japanese counterpart with a rubber knife at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
Tongan Marine Cpl. Lisiate Siale barks out orders during a fire-team assault at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018.
Tongan Marine Cpl. Lisiate Siale barks out orders during a fire-team assault at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines patrol up a hill at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018.
Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines patrol up a hill at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
A Marine uses his buddy's foot as a pillow to get in a few extra minutes of rest at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018.
A Marine uses his buddy's foot as a pillow to get in a few extra minutes of rest at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Friday, July 13, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii — A rubber knife fight and a Tongan hymn punctuated the first day of live-fire training on the “Big Island” of Hawaii Friday during this year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise.

Twenty-five nations, more than 45 surface ships and submarines, 17 national land forces, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are involved in the drills, scheduled to run through Aug. 2 in Hawaii and Southern California.

The 3rd Marine Regiment, comprised of 2,500 Marines, is training with eleven nations at the Mars-like Pohakuloa Training Area, a lava-swept plateau in the shadow the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanos.

The training involved four-man fire teams reacting to frontal ambushes by shooting at green pop-up targets.

It’s preparation for more complex operations later in the month, according to one of the participants, 2nd Lt. William Bourque, 23, of Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J., who leads 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Marine Battalion.

“What we’re looking for is to give our fire team leaders (a chance) to step up and incorporate patrolling techniques,” Bourque said.

One team leader, Lance Cpl. Charles Hafner, 27, of Chantilly, Va., wasn’t intimidated by the challenge.

“When you get assigned a [leadership position] in the Marine Corps it’s because you did something right,” he said.

Back at base camp Berserker Company 1st Sergeant William Radebaugh, 37, from Huntington Beach, Calif., a fourth degree blackbelt in Marine martial arts, practiced hand-to-hand combat with a Japanese soldier.

Both managed to tag each other with rubber training knives but Radebaugh prevailed by disarming his counterpart and taking him to the dirt in front a multinational audience.

As the troops settled in for the night 30 Tongan Marines, who represent a third of their small country’s amphibious forces, sang a hymn about the history of their island.

“We’re here to come together more than just as fighting forces, but as people,” Bourque said.

After the live fire training, the Marines will load aboard Australian and U.S. ships and conduct amphibious and air assaults onto the islands of Oahu and Kauai.

fichtl.marcus@stripes.com Twitter: @marcusfichtl

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