Approximately 300 Marines and Sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived back on Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group shipping following the final amphibious landing exercise and closing ceremony of Exercise Tiger Strike 2016, in the Sabah Province, Malaysia, Nov. 13, 2016.
TS16, which is the third iteration of the exercise, was led by 7th Battalion, Royal Malay Regiment, and supported by MKI ARG/11th MEU during their routinely scheduled Western Pacific 16-2 deployment.
TS16 is a bilateral training exercise designed to strengthen the two forces’ combat readiness and ability to communicate, plan, and execute amphibious operations in support of regional security and stability.
“As a forward-staged combat force, these opportunities provide security and stability to the region by enhancing our ability to communicate and coordinate with a foreign military, specifically the Malaysian Armed Forces, whom we have a great relationship with”, said Maj. Patrick Skehan, commanding officer, Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 4th Marines. “They have a lot to learn from these exercises and we do as well.”
Launched from the USS Makin Island (LHD 8), Marines with Company C, BLT 1/4; Combat Logistics Detachment 111; and other MEU detachments, participated in various training evolutions offered by their Malaysian hosts, while also facilitating RMR in MEU-led training events.
One of many bilateral training objectives during TS16 included jungle survival, in which BLT Marines were led through the dense Malaysian jungle, to observe different fighting positions the RMR set up during combat operations in jungle environments; and jungle shelter sites, which are elevated to keep its inhabitants dry and off of the forest floor, away from potential marshland and wildlife.
“We have different tactics, techniques, and procedures when it comes down to how we conduct our training,” said Skehan. “For example, we have very different helicopters than the Malaysians do, and with that comes different TTP’s that they wouldn’t normally get and we have the opportunity to teach them.”
Because the Marines and RMR have a significantly different armament, TS16 gave Malaysians the opportunity to experience tactical loading and offloading of MV-22 Osprey and CH-53E Super Stallion aircraft, where they also practiced setting up landing zone security and using air panels to mark landing zones for incoming aircraft.
Oftentimes during a MEU’s deployment, naval medical personnel will take the opportunity to work with their host nation military’s or local civilian counterparts. TS16 provided the MKI ARG/MEU’s Sailors the opportunity to do both.
TS16 included a medical civil affairs project and capabilities exchange, which allowed medical staff with both the 11th MEU and Malaysian Armed Forces to collaborate with local medical professionals at a clinic near Lahad Datu, Malaysia. During their visit, they were able to assess, treat, and diagnose and offer other forms of medical aid to many local citizens.
Also as part of the MEDCAP, medics with the Malaysian Armed Forces were transported to the Makin Island and offered a tour of the ship’s medical facilities by its staff, showing them the capabilities and casualty aid the ARG can render to victims in the event of a crisis, casualty evacuation, or humanitarian assistance operation.
A crucial aspect of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force is the MEU’s fire-support Marines. Marines with the MEU’s Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Detachment taught Malaysian soldiers the different types of ordnance that can be employed through air and naval gunfire support assets, as well as the process and importance of coordinating fire support in combat operations.
“Before coming to Tiger Strike, I only knew the basics of my job,” said Pvt. Abdul Fatha, a rifleman with 7th Bn., RMR. “I didn’t know much about fire support, but when I asked the Marine staff and officers questions, I was able to learn a lot.”
Other training practices the Marines shared with the Malaysians included: non-lethal weapons, combat logistics support, operational planning, and amphibious operations with air and sea connecting assets.
For the culminating event of TS16, Nov. 13, 2016, U.S. and Malaysian military officials, including other VIPs, were offered a visual demonstration of the 11th MEU and RMR’s combined operational capabilities by observing an amphibious landing in conjunction with a helicopter raid.
In the initial phases of the demonstration, reconnaissance and surveillance swimmers with the Malaysian Naval Special Warfare Forces secured the beach head while aircraft with the Malaysian Air Force provided close air-support. The Marines and Malaysian Soldiers inserted nearby via an MV-22 Ospreys and executed a simulated raid, showcasing their ability to plan, coordinate, communicate, and carry out combined amphibious operation.
Upon completion of the final exercise, U.S. and Malaysian military officials offered final remarks and exchanged gifts at a closing ceremony, acknowledging the strong partnership that has existed between the United States and Malaysia, and recognizing the diligence and determination of the two nations’ participation during Exercise Tiger Strike.
Maj. Gen. John Quintas, Deputy Director for Politico-Military Affairs for Asia, Joint Staff, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., captured the importance of bilateral exercises like TS16 when he addressed the audience at the closing ceremony, “No nation alone will solve the challenges that your generation will face and [through] the skills you honed today, you will draw upon in a time and a place that is unknowable and perhaps even unthinkable, but only in hindsight will you realize that value of the experience you’re gaining today.”
Press release and pictures by Cpl. Devan K. Gowans, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit