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Tafakula 2011 moves to the jungle

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Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, the Tongan Defense Service and French Armed Forces, New Caledonia conducted a field operation in the Kingdom of Tonga during Exercise Tafakula 2011, recently.

The four-day field event was conceptualized due to lack of jungle environment in the U.S. and France.

“It allows us to work with different nations and allows us to have allies in different areas we have worked with before,” said Sgt. Zechariah Barnes, a platoon sergeant in Kilo Company, 3/5. “I think it’s very important to do this and build friendships around the world."

Tongans taught Marines and French forces jungle tactics and tips including making rope from tree bark and branches and using trees for food and shelter.

“For the Tongans this is their home so they are pretty sound in the tactics, but the French and U.S. are pretty new to the jungle environment so we are learning from the Tongans right now,” Barnes said.

The exercise involved trekking through the jungle and establishing patrol bases for operations, security patrols, ambushes and vehicle checkpoints.

Patrols were sent out to gain intelligence on the location and possible threats. Once intelligence was received, more patrols engaged simulated enemy attacks to test the three services’ interoperability.

“At first, the language barrier was tough to overcome, but once we established certain words or signs we all worked together well,” Barnes said.

The three-day jungle exercise concluded with a coordinated raid on the enemy compound where all three services worked together to defeat the enemy.

“It’s pretty fun to work with the Marine Corps and Tongans,” said Staff Sgt. Sebastien Chataignier, FANC platoon leader. “This exercise is a good experience for the French Marines.”

Article by Cpl. Salvador R. Moreno, I MEF