ABOARD USS KEARSARGE -- As the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) passed through the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa area of operations April 26, the unit took advantage of the extensive ranges and training areas available in Djibouti to conduct advanced combined-arms fire-support training along with aircraft and personnel recovery operations.
Included in the advanced fire-support training was indirect fire from 81mm mortars, precision sniper fire and close-air support from each type of aircraft the MEU has in its arsenal.
The exercise was a critical training opportunity for the 26th MEU (SOC) and demonstrated the far-reaching combat capability of 5th Fleet within the Central Command area of operations with the arrival of the MEU and the Kearsarge Strike Group said the MEU commander, Col. Thomas F. Qualls.
“This is an important step in preparing this ESG and MEU (SOC) team for the uncertain road we have ahead as we get further in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility,” Qualls said. “One thing we are really showing here is the prowess of CJTF- HOA and its ability to reach out and grab assets to prosecute the Global War on Terror against the trans-national terrorists that are in the region.”
The MEU displayed its firepower at the Godoria Range before an assembled audience of senior coalition officers who represented several countries playing an active role in defeating terrorism. The party included officers from Djibouti, Republic of Korea, Yemen, Romania, France, the United Kingdom and Kenya.
They, along with U.S. military officials and members of the Djiboutian media, observed the exercise from a mountain ridge adjacent to the range. From that observation post, fire support coordinator Capt. James F. Cherry orchestrated the day’s events with support from the MEU’s satellite communication teams and fire support teams who provided the communication between the air and ground elements.
In all, the MEU expended seven rockets, two MK82 bombs, 133 mortars and more than 10,000 rounds from air and ground weapon systems during the one-day exercise.
After the coordinated fire training, the MEU continued its operation with a surface tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel exercise from the Gulf of Tadjoura near Camp Lemonier.
A Navy Landing Craft, Air-Cushioned transported members of the MEU’s surface TRAP team ashore from the dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) cruising a few miles off the Djibouti coast.
The surface trap team is comprised of elements of Echo Company and Combined Anti-Armor Team “B” from Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion 8th Marines. The team is specially trained to conduct rescue operations in a combat zone.
The TRAP force landed at the beach, established a defensive position and unloaded their vehicles. They pushed approximately two miles inland where a pair of simulated downed pilots were awaiting rescue.
After returning the pilots safely to the beach, the team took an operational pause to allow the spectators to board the LCAC for a brief visit to the Ashland.
Following the exercise the 26th MEU resumed its push into the 5th Fleet AOR. Qualls said he looks forward to returning to CJTF-HOA and supporting the task force in their mission of assisting host nations to foster a secure and stable environment in the Horn of Africa and promote regional security.
To follow the 26th MEU (SOC) throughout the rest of its deployment log onto www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.