Marines, Djiboutians train side-by-side during Image Nautilus

14 Feb 2007 | Cpl. Jeremy Ross

Marines and Sailors from Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, wrapped up five days of bilateral, live-fire training with troops from the Djiboutian Army here, today, as Exercise Image Nautilus '07 came to a close.

During each day of the bilateral training, which began Feb. 10, more than sixty troops from the unit's Light Armored Reconnaissance and Combined-Anti Armor Team Platoons worked side-by-side with dozens of Djiboutian soldiers to fire nearly every infantry weapon in the MEU's arsenal, and a few that were not.

The focus of the training was to give both forces an opportunity to familiarize each other with their different weapon systems and tactics while giving the MEU's troops a chance to get some valuable trigger time, said 1st Lt. Rollin A. Steele, LAR Plt. commander.

Throughout the exercise the Marines took time to explain to their Djiboutian counterparts the operation and firing techniques of the U.S. weapons they were shooting.

The Americans also got a chance to fire the host nation's weapons as they put rounds down range with AK-47 assault rifles, PKM light machine guns and Draganov sniper rifles.

Shooting with unfamiliar weapons was a new experience for many of the Marines and highlighted a key difference between the two nations' militaries, said Cpl. Todd M. Zielinski, a scout team leader with LAR Plt.

"It was cool getting to shoot with their weapons," he explained.  "You could really feel the difference between their [rifles] and ours."

The Marines' precision tactics were on display as they conducted an Enhanced Marksmanship Program range. Having demonstrated the techniques used in close quarters firing, the Marines then walked the Djiboutian troops through the course of fire.

Seeing another nation's military in action was a valuable experience for the Djiboutian troops, said Djiboutian Army 1st Lt. Rachid Ismael.

"This was a big experience for my men," he explained.  "It has given them some different ideas and perspectives on training and shooting that they can take back to their own units."

The expansive ranges here also gave the MEU's troops an opportunity to shoot more explosive weaponry, including M-203 grenade launchers; shoulder-launched, multi-purpose assault weapons; and M-136 AT-4 rockets.

While the U.S. Marines and Djiboutian soldiers adjusted to each others' inherent differences, professionalism, safety and military bearing were universal throughout the training, said Staff Sgt. Arthur Abrego, Jr., the platoon sergeant for CAAT 'White' Plt.

"Just like our military, [the Djiboutian soldiers] have a strong sense of duty and discipline," he said.  "They had professional attitudes and were proficient in their weapons handling."

The patience, attention to detail and hard work the Marines and Djiboutians put in to the exercise helped make Image Nautilus a bilateral success, said Steele.

Ismael agreed, saying, "I think it gave our troops the confidence that if someday we fight alongside American troops, we can communicate and work together effectively to accomplish our missions."

The bilateral training at Myriam Range marked the final events in conjunction with Image Nautilus. Marines and Sailors from BLT 2/2 and Combat Logistics Battalion - 26 kicked off the exercise Jan. 6 with a two-day community relations project at Ecole du Stade Primary School in Djibouti City.

The 26th MEU departed the North Carolina Jan. 6 on a routine deployment as the landing force for the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group.  In addition to USS Bataan (LHD-5), the strike group is comprised of the USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), USS Shreveport (LPD-12), USS Nitze (DDG-94), USS Vella Gulf (CG-72), USS Underwood (FFG-36) and USS Scranton (SSN-756).

The Bataan ESG is currently supporting maritime security operations (MSO) in the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command area of operations.  MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.