NAVAL STATION MANDA BAY, Kenya -- Marines and Sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived here today to begin training with elements of the Kenyan Army and Navy.
More than 500 Marines and Sailors from the 26th MEU arrived via helicopter and landing craft from the ships of the Bataan Strike Group to participate in Exercise Edged Mallet '07.
The exercise will include small arms live-fire and bilateral patrols, as well as community relations projects such as a school refurbishment project and a medical clinic.
Lieutenant Colonel John W. Capdepon, 26th MEU Executive Officer, said the training fosters relations between the two nations and their militaries.
"The training builds cooperation and interoperability between the U.S. and Kenyan Forces," he said, "In addition, it's important that we conduct such exercises to demonstrate our strong alliance between each nation and its armed forces."
The significance of the training was not lost on the host nation.
Kenyan Army Major Lawrence Gituma, Commanding Officer, Naval Station Manda Bay, said the training would be informative for all the services involved.
"We can learn from each other," he said, "It should be an eye-opener."
Gituma, who had previously trained with components of the Unites States Army and Coast Guard, said he looked forward to working with the Marines and Navy, and that it was a good chance for the two nations militaries learn not only about military doctrine, but to observe and absorb the cultural differences between the two.
"This will be a chance for them to learn about our country, learn about the Kenyan's capabilities, and find out first hand about the humble hospitality of the Kenyan people," he said.
Capdepon agreed that the cultural exchange was almost as important as the military training.
"Exercises such as Edge Mallet allow two cultures from vastly different parts of the world to come together in a training environment, allowing each to better realize we are not much different from each other," he said.
For many of the Marines and Sailors this may be their only chance to visit this continent, let alone country, and Capdepon said the troops are making the best of it.
"The Marines and Sailors of the MEU have enjoyed the opportunity to come train with the Kenyans," he continued, "a country so diverse not only in wildlife but in the people themselves."
The 26th MEU is comprised of the Command Element; the Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team 2/2; the Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion-26; and the Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced).
The 26th MEU, along with the ships of the Bataan Strike Group, USS Bataan (LHD-5, 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), deployed in early January on a routine, scheduled deployment.
For more information, news, and video, please visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.