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By 2ND LT. JOSHUA LARSON
24th Marine Expeditionary Unit
DJIBOUTI – U.S. and French Marines from corresponding Light Armored Reconnaissance elements worked together, Aug. 25 – 27, in Djibouti, taking part in route and area reconnaissance and raid training near the coastline of the Gulf of Toujours.
The U.S. Marines are part of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which has a small contingent ashore in Djibouti conducting unilateral, bilateral and joint training exercises. The French Marines are from the French 5th Marine Regiment.
“The overall intent of the training was to create a training opportunity that maximized the capabilities and interaction of both platoons. Our hope was to create a scenario that utilized the strengths of each platoon in a mutually supporting role, and it worked amazingly well,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin Gallo, LAR platoon commander, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th MEU.
The training began when the Marines joined together Aug. 25 for vehicle familiarization, cross-training in tactics, techniques and procedures, and an orders brief where both units discussed the details of the upcoming training mission.
Cpl. Ryan Frick, an infantry rifleman and scout section leader with the 24th MEU’s LAR platoon, said there are not many specific differences between how the Americans and French do business.
“Their vehicles are set up differently; we have seven (Marines) in ours and they have four,” the Atlanta, Ga., native said.
Each unit’s similar tactics allowed for a smooth culminating event – a training raid that took place, Aug. 27.
“The scouts were the assault and they (the French) were the security for us,” said Frick as he described the raid, in which other U.S. Marines role-played as an enemy force.
As the force came in, they took initial fire from a far building, so the 24th MEU Marines took action and engaged that building while moving forward as the French, in constant support, moved forward with them. A few minutes later, the Marines took fire from the left flank, which played perfectly into the unit’s set-up, and they were able to immediately return fire on the aggressors, Frick explained.
Gallo discussed how the French were able to take the lead in certain situations when their superior range and firepower were beneficial, and each force was able to easily switch roles from being the unit providing support to the one taking the lead.
“We both worked off each other,” Frick added, while other 24th MEU Marines echoed Frick’s statements, saying they were impressed with the shared professionalism of the French Marines.
“The Marines greatly enjoyed getting to know their counterparts, most especially during their down time at the joint bivouac,” Gallo said. “I watched the Marines swap stories and MREs, listen with interest at the capabilities brief given by the French, and come together during execution to accomplish the mission.”
The U.S. Marines have been training with the French for the past few weeks and have scheduled future training, which helps each country’s military learn how to operate in different environments and prepare for potential real-world scenarios.
“Ultimately, it was an opportunity to gain a greater appreciation of the joint planning process and get the Marines out training in an austere environment with harsh terrain that they wouldn’t have experienced anywhere else,” concluded Gallo.
The 24th MEU is deployed with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group as a theater reserve and crisis response force for the U.S. Central Command and 5th Fleet area of responsibility.