2003-08-22 / Columnists

Marine Returns From SE Asia

Inwood’s Anthony C. Pandolfo and four hundred of his fellow Marines of a specially assembled Marine Air and Ground Task Force (MAGTF) recently returned from their role as the embarked landing force in the ninth annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (LF CARAT) exercise in Southeast Asia. The task force left earlier this summer to enhance regional cooperation and promote understanding of operational military readiness in Thailand, Brunei, Singapore, and Malaysia.

The MAGTF is made up of a variety of Marine Corps units. The assault battalion is a portion of the LF CARAT Landing Force, which is task-organized, based on exercise training requirements. The landing force is established annually by direction of the Commanding General of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan.

Marine Lance Cpl. Pandolfo, the 19-year old son of Charles and Sandra Pandolfo of Inwood, is an assistant squad automatic weapon gunner with the MAGTF.

"I am a rifleman. I carry an M16A2 service rifle. I carry extra ammunition for a machine gunner. I am in a front line platoon," Pandolfo said.

Along with the MAGTF, the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes (CG 49), dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), guided-missile frigate USS Curts (FFG 38) and rescue and salvage ship USS Safeguard (ARS 50) made up the U.S. Navy component of LF CARAT.

Many bilateral evolutions were conducted with each nation during LF CARAT. Each evolution varied and was determined during planning conferences held last year. Seminars were scheduled, as were social events that gave LF CARAT participants a chance to develop personal relationships that are critical to combined operations.

Pandolfo and fellow Marines executed drills and training skills in such areas as at-sea maneuvering, communications, force protection, anti-terrorism, airborne maritime patrol, medical concepts, and explosive ordnance disposal. Pandolfo was also involved in command and control development, diving and salvage exercises, plus landing force activities at sea and ashore. Pandolfo feels that it is important to participate in exercises like LF CARAT.

"LF CARAT and exercises like it provide special training to Marines that they can’t get in the U.S. It also provides the knowledge of what it is like to work with armed forces of other nations," said the two-year Marine Corps veteran.

While conducting such vigorous and demanding drills, the Marines and Sailors also found time to lend a helping hand. They interacted with local residents while participating in community service and civil action projects in Thailand and throughout each phase of the exercises.

Being part of the Marine Corps and LF CARAT has allowed Pandolfo to experience and perform jobs others will never get the opportunity to experience.

"To a Marine serving his or her country it’s the proudest thing that a person can do. People take for granted the lives we have to live in the U.S. and have no idea what some other countries are like. It feels good to preserve the American way of life," Pandolfo said.

With the U.S military involved in many operations around the world, it is vital that highly trained Marines like Pandolfo participate in exercises like LF CARAT. Maintaining readiness is a serious commitment of which Pandolfo is proud to be a part.

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