Civil engineer Airmen, combat engineer Marines and Navy Seabees trained together May 18-19 during a joint airfield damage and repair contingency exercise at Kadena Air Base.
The exercise allowed 18th Civil Engineer Squadron Airmen to demonstrate and then guide Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 combat engineers and Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 Seabees through a hands-on demonstration of how the Air Force repairs damaged airfields.
For Master Sgt. Steven Cordova, the 18th CES expeditionary engineering flight chief, the focus of the training was learning to operate efficiently together.
“The main focus is to close the gap between services,” Cordova said. “Right now, everyone kind of operates on their own terms and has their own way of doing things.”
Although there may be differences between the training of the services, their objectives are the same — fill craters and get the airfield operational again.
“The steps are a little bit different, but in essence the steps are the same,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Justin Luk, an MWSS 172 combat engineer. “Assess the crater, make it flat and from there we fill it in.”
Luk said the first day of the exercise was mainly spent watching the Airmen perform the damage repair and the second day the Marines took over and performed the repairs the same way.
“We had multiple objectives coming out here,” Luk said. “One was to reaffirm that we are capable of doing it. Another was to learn what we could from our Air Force counterparts.”
According to Luk, Marine combat engineers deploy to different forward operating bases and often those FOBs will have mixed units.
“It’s one team and one fight,” Luk said. “Here in peacetime we are able to train that way.”
The exercise gave members from the three services an opportunity to familiarize themselves with each other and their junior members to experience working in a joint environment.
“It was a good learning opportunity for some of our guys to get some experience on something they haven’t done before,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Darcel Tinner, an NMCB 4 Seabee.
From Tinner’s experience, repairing damaged airfields for the Navy involves more manual work than the use of heavy machinery.
“We’ll fill holes by hand compared to us using machines,” Tinner said. “If there’s anything we’ll take away from this, it’s to use more machines.”
Cordova said the overall goal of these exercises is to improve their craft and interoperability with multiple services on Okinawa.
“When push comes to shove, we need to be able to work together and that’s what today is all about,” Cordova said.