A Valiant Shield exercise scheduled for Tinian had to be called off last week due to the discovery of evidence of an endangered turtle species nesting.
"It is an endangered sea turtle," said Bill Kavanagh, the regional and environmental coordinator for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas.
A release issued by the U.S. Marine Corps stated that landings were originally planned for an area called Chulu Beach on the northwest side of Tinian, but were called off because the exercise could coincide with the hatching window of the turtles.
Kavanagh stated that a nesting site was discovered and that projections for the time of hatching were found to correspond with the time of the exercises.
According to the release, the exercise that was canceled involved live-action beach landings of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit as part of an amphibious assault and island seizure operation.
"We need the ability to train to conduct beach landings," said Lt. Col. Brian Greene, commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. "However, the strength of our Marine Air-Ground Task Force is the ability to project forces from the ship to an objective through the use of helicopters as well as surface craft. The (task force) allows for a range of operations and we welcome the opportunity to exercise that flexibility."
The release stated that the biological opinion of the Marianas Island Training and Testing Environmental Impact Statement limits the permissible actions of the military if and when they encounter turtle nests.
According to the statement, beaches involved with military training exercises undergo monthly inspections by contractors and NAVFAC natural resources specialists. They specifically target nesting indicators of green or hawksbill sea turtles.
Additionally, the release said that beaches are further inspected six hours prior to a military landing.
"If a turtle nest is spotted, the entire beach may be shut down to military training or the nests could be marked for bypass and standoff," the release stated.
The NAVFAC environmental team coordinates with operation managers of the Joint Region Marianas whose duty is to oversee support of all regional Department of Defense components.
"I think it demonstrates our commitment to building relationships in the area and we understand we have to work closely to protect the environment while being able to continue to provide realistic training," said Col. Walter Hattermer, JRM director of operations.
Valiant Shield is a biennial, U.S.-only, field training exercise that focuses on interoperability and cooperation between the different service branches. Due to the unique opportunities offered by the ocean environment, the training allows for the development of real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace.