Marine Corps’ all-volunteer unit shows off its combat capabilities


TAIPEI — A Marine Corps unit composed of volunteers displayed its amphibious combat capabilities during a drill in Southern Taiwan yesterday, an exercise the military hoped would bring positive publicity to its controversial shift to an all-volunteer force.

The First Infantry Company of Taiwan’s First Infantry Battalion under the Marine Corps’ 99 Brigade landed on a beachfront in three inflatable boats at the Tsoying Naval Base before engaging in urban warfare in a simulated attack.

The infantry company, which became an all-volunteer military unit in April, will be honored as one of the military’s model groups of the year at a ceremony in Taipei on Friday.

The drill, the first by an all-volunteer unit that was open to the media, came at a time of growing concern over the Taiwanese military’s transition to an all-volunteer force, especially as recruitment lags well behind established targets.

The military used the occasion to tout the benefits of volunteer forces.

It said that because the volunteer members of the experimental Marine Corps unit serve a minimum of four years, they are able to undergo more rigorous training than conscripts who do only a year of compulsory service.

Later Tuesday, the Ministry of National Defense-organized media tour was to visit an Air Force unit that will also be honored as a model unit at the ceremony, being held just days before Taiwan’s Armed Forces Day on Sept. 3.

This was the first media tour organized by the ministry since the death of Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu, who collapsed and died July 4 after being thrown into the brig and subjected to strenuous exercises in extreme heat for days.

The incident sparked massive public protests and inflicted untold damage on the military’s image and morale at a time when it is being converted into an all-volunteer force, and the military hoped that Tuesday’s tour could restore some of its lost prestige.