Chilean Marine Corporal German Letelier, exited the rear of a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter onto a field of tall grass and found a secure position as quickly as possible. Exiting with him were marines from the Philippines and the United States; Letelier was the sole representative from the Chilean Marine Corps.
He was on the first of two helicopter waves that inserted the troops into the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA), on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii as part of the biennial Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), on July 12, 2018. Ahead, they could see the objective: two small towns known to contain a large number of civilians along with enemy combatants.
The group of multinational service members moved forward by squads and fire teams toward the closest objective, knowing that they were likely to be engaged by the enemy at any second. Surely enough, about 200 meters from the town, Cpl. Letelier heard rounds go off.
Cpl. Letelier and the other marines involved in the operation pushed into the town, eventually joined by the Republic of Korea and U.S. marines from the second helicopter wave. After clearing both towns, they proceeded with the primary purpose of the training exercise: evacuating noncombatant personnel from danger.
“I like what we are doing here,” Cpl. Letelier said. “The exchange of experience during [urban operations] was quite good. Our tactics, techniques and procedures were quite similar to the U.S. marines, so it was kind of easy to mix up the units and achieve some good training.”
With that mission complete, Cpl. Letelier checked off his first training event on PTA during RIMPAC. His biggest takeaway so far is how it is important to break down a scenario and understand the mission of everyone else involved in the operation, starting with yourself and working your way up to the larger units.
While Cpl. Letelier might have been the only Chilean marine involved in the noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO), he is not the only one involved in RIMPAC. By July 15, he was joined by a platoon of his brothers in arms, all of whom have been actively participating in the exercise on the island of Oahu since their arrival at the end of June.
Cpl. Letelier, a squad leader for the Chilean Marine Corps’ 1st Platoon, 211th Company, 21st Battalion, has served in the Chilean Marine Corps for 13 years. He joined at a young age for simple and honorable reasons. Attracted by the idea of service to his country and interest in the military is what initially grabbed his attention. After spending time in the service, he further realized that while Chile might not be involved in direct conflict often, it was still important for the country to be prepared for any possibility. He believes that exercises like RIMPAC are a perfect way of not only increasing Chile’s capabilities, but also his own.
Throughout his years of service, this is his first iteration of RIMPAC and the first opportunity to train closely with other countries. He is enjoying the training being done, as well as the opportunity to work with and exchange knowledge with other countries.
Cpl. Letelier discussed the importance of bringing nations together to train as one. “Something might happen, and they might call us to support and be part of a big coalition force and this kind of training is so important for that.”
He talked about how important it was to train together during exercises like RIMPAC, so that mistakes could be made now as opposed to in the future. If mistakes are made in training, then they could be learned from and resolved, saving lives and increasing the chances of mission success during real-world operations.
He thinks continued training like this will strengthen the capabilities of Chile and their partners, in addition to increasing their ability to operate together. Cpl. Letelier’s sentiments echo the main goals and ideas behind RIMPAC of bringing partners and allies together. Not only can they learn from each other, they can learn to work and train together.
The Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Hawaii portion of RIMPAC is made up of roughly 2,000 service members from 11 different nations training and working together in and around the Hawaiian Islands. For Cpl. Letelier, the RIMPAC experience continued as 25 nations, 46 ships, five submarines, about 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands.