FORT A.P. HILL, Va. -- A platoon of Marines from Chile left their South American homes to link up with Marines from India Battery, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Bn., 8th Marine Regiment, for training here Oct. 12 through 22.
The 18 Chilean Marine Corps artillerymen were able to learn how U.S. Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit work the M198 155mm Howitzer during direct and indirect fire missions.
According to Capt. Jojo Chames, the U.S. Marine Corps liaison officer for the Chilean Marines, this bilateral training was part of a unit exchange program. Eventually a group of Marines will be sent to Chile to learn how the Marines do business there.
Many of the Chilean Marines were experienced artillerymen, however the howitzer the Marine Corps uses is different than what they use. Therefore, two Chilean Marines were attached to each of the gun sections to enhance their learning on the U.S. equipment.
The senior Marine for the Chileans was 18-year-veteran Sgt. Rene Munoz.
“I am more than gracious to have been incorporated into their party and different artillery guns from Camp Lejeune,” said Munoz. “I have gotten a good impression about what you do, what you fight for and how you prepare.”
Incorporating these Marines into the battery was fairly easy, explained Chames. He said that even though he brought few translators with him, the battery had numerous Spanish-speaking Marines who were able to bridge the language barrier.
“This was great and we learned a lot,” said Cpl. Silas Fulsom, a section chief for India Battery. “The language was a small barrier, but these (Chilean) Marines had some of the best morale to get the job done.”
Fulsom added that he could tell the Chileans were well trained, even though the guns were different. He said that the skills needed for firing artillery are very similar, no matter what kind of gun you’re shooting.
He wasn’t the only one that noticed a high level of training. Munoz also had similar words about the U.S. Marines.
“I’ve noticed that each Marine requires the maximum for their jobs,” Munoz said. “They leave nothing at random, from the gunners to the lance corporal… They occupy themselves with their (unit), their vehicles, their security and their people.”
Following the training here, the Chilean Marines left the battery on a trip to Washington D.C. for a tour of America’s capital. After the visit, the Chileans will head home to share their experiences with their fellow Marines and await the arrival of the U.S. Marines there.
For more information on the 26th MEU, visit www.26meu.usmc.mil.