Taiwan Marines Flex Muscles
By WENDELL MINNICK
Taipei - Taiwan's Marine Corps displayed amphibious beach assault capabilities and special warfare skills during a one-day exercise at Tsoying Naval Base, Kaohsiung, on Oct. 31. The exercise began with a demonstration by six new AAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles during a simulated beach assault.
Taiwan acquired 54 rebuilt AAV-7A1 RAM/RS (Reliability, Availability and Maintainability/Rebuild to Standard) amphibious assault vehicles in 2006 from the United States. The purchase included four AAVC-7A1 Command Vehicles and two AAVR-7A1 Recovery Vehicles. The AAV-7 vehicles now make up two companies in the 66th Marine Brigade in Linkou, northern Taiwan, and the 99th Marine Brigade at Tsoying Naval Base, southern Taiwan.
The Marines still operate four companies of 84 aging LVTP-5A1 vehicles acquired in the 1970s. At one time, Taiwan had 300 LVTP-5s in its arsenal.
United Defense LP Ground Systems won a $156 million contract in 2003 to supply the AAV-7s to Taiwan. The company provided remanufactured hulls, material support and test equipment, appliqué armor kits and litter kits. Work was done at the U.S. Marine Corps Logistics Command Depot in Albany, Ga.
The second part of the exercise involved the Marine Corps' Amphibious Reconnaissance Patrol (ARP) Battalion at the Urban Simulation Center. The facility is made up of a variety of buildings for close quarter combat. In a simulated assault, three teams belonging to the ARP's Special Service Company (SSC) landed by rubber boats along the coast. The teams climbed a rock face and attacked several buildings.
ARP's 600 troops make up seven companies: four reconnaissance, one underwater demolition and two SSCs.
Over half of the ARP members are "aboriginals," one Marine official said. "They are just tougher than city recruits. They volunteer and are eager for a military career," the official said. Aboriginals come from mountainous areas and are "used to the rural life."
About 458,000 aboriginals make up 14 tribes in Taiwan. They are linked genetically and linguistically to the Austronesian peoples and are famous for their early tradition of head-hunting, now abolished.
The ARP also displayed a two-man sniper team that demonstrated camouflage techniques. They were armed with a Remington M-24 sniper rifle and a Colt M-4A1 CARPine assault rifle.
ARP was created in 1995 when several Marine special operations units, including the SSC, were placed under the ARP as part of an overall force restructuring effort.