Okinawa-based Marines carry out ‘warrior’ training near Korean Demilitarized Zone
Stars and Stripes February 22, 2023
PAJU, South Korea — U.S. Marines from Japan capped a month of training here Tuesday by fighting off a simulated ambush while they pulled their light tactical vehicles from a cold, muddy field near the border with North Korea.
Roughly 80 Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion, III MEF Information Group, out of Camp Hansen on Okinawa, were wrapping up a combat readiness exercise at the Dagmar North Training Area in Paju, roughly three miles from the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea.
The exercise, known as Bushido Strike 2023, began Jan. 28 and included cold-weather training, combat lifesaver courses and pistol and rifle marksmanship, battalion spokesman 2nd Lt. Samuel Barge told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.
Bushido, the battalion’s call sign, in Japanese means “the way of the warrior,” or the code of samurai life.
This warrior training is particularly valuable for these Marines, Barge said. Their primary roles in the III MEF include maintaining vehicles and weapons and providing communications and administrative support.
“We came out to South Korea to practice those basic infantry skills … so that we can support the MEF," Barge said.
To simulate a battle during a convoy operation, two-man teams mimicking enemy combatants were dispersed on both sides of a muddy road. Hidden in tall weeds, these camouflaged “red cells” equipped with M249 light machine guns and M4 rifles ambushed the joint light tactical vehicles as they passed.
Maj. Kevin Jones, the exercise’s site commander, said the Marines chose South Korea as the training ground because “logistically, it makes sense.”
Training on Okinawa is difficult because of its smaller terrain, Jones said. Additionally, some of the Marines and vehicles that were shipped for Bushido Strike will be used again sometime in March for Freedom Shield, a large-scale drill by U.S. and South Korean troops.
Bushido Strike and Freedom Shield are being held as the allies’ stance toward North Korea remains tense. The communist regime fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Monday and an intercontinental ballistic missile on Saturday, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The U.S. and South Korean air forces responded to the ICBM launch with a demonstration of air power on Sunday. U.S. B1-B Lancer bombers and F-16 Fighting Falcons joined South Korean F-35A and F-15K fighters to rehearse a “short-notice recall” mission, according to U.S. Forces Korea on Twitter.
South Korea’s display of military power has become routine amid the North’s missile launches. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has promised to reinforce Seoul’s alliance with the U.S. in the wake of Pyongyang’s record number of launches last year and agreed to upscale joint military drills with Washington.