MIDDLE EAST -- With successful bilateral training evolutions alongside host nation forces in Djibouti and Kenya already under their belt, Marines and Sailors from Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, put the finishing touches on the third such endeavor of their current deployment, here, April 15.
During the exercise, which began April 7, BLT 2/2 put its mechanized and artillery components into action for sustainment and bilateral training alongside a regiment of Middle Eastern troops.
After rolling ashore along with the MEU's command element and Combat Logistics Battalion-26, the battalion began individual unit training that focused on getting its troops back to the basics of ground combat, said Master Gunnery Sgt. Tom Gilbert, a Colorado Springs, Colo., native now BLT 2/2's operations chief.
Company F along with the MEU's Assault Amphibian Vehicle (AAV) Platoon concentrated on improving its convoy and mounted vehicle patrol battle skills. Their training culminated with a day of scenario training that tested the Marines on everything from casualty evacuation procedures to ambush response tactics.
Weapons Company's Combined Anti-Armor Team Platoon lit-up targets on the expansive training ranges as they honed their marksmanship capabilities with M-2 .50-caliber, M-240G medium and MK-19 heavy machine guns. The CAAT Plt. was also given a rare opportunity to fire a Tube-launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided Missile, a powerful weapon designed to defeat modern main battle tanks.
The battalion's Tank, AAV and Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoons all attained battle sight zeros with their vehicles' weapons systems, and caught up on day and night maneuver tactics.
Battery K Marines refreshed their skills with M-198 155mm Howitzers before sending shells down range. The live-fire marked the first time that the artillery unit's roar had been heard during the current deployment, and was a key point of the sustainment portion of the exercise, said Gilbert.
"The best thing we did during the (sustainment training) was get Btry. K back on the range," he explained. "They call themselves the 'King of Battle', and it was definitely time we got the 'King' back into action."
Keeping the battalion's fighting skills sharp was important to their current role as the MEU's ground combat element, said Lt. Col. Christopher C. Starling, commanding officer, BLT 2/2.
"With numerous possibilities of where we could be employed, we need to always be ready to respond," he said. "It's the attention to detail with fundamental skills that gives us the capability to project force from the sea."
After refreshing their individual unit skills, the 'Warlords' began a series of training evolutions with their Middle Eastern counterparts, April 10.
During the bilateral phase, the battalion's elements spent each day conducting training alongside corresponding components from the host nation's forces, exchanging knowledge and observing one another's vehicles, weapons and tactics.
For the Tank, CAAT and LAR Platoons, the bilateral training involved heading into the desert with the host nation's combat vehicles for unit-on-unit training during which each military displayed their different concepts of mechanized warfare.
The Marines gained valuable insight from these demonstrations, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Yaw B. Agyapong, a hospital corpsman from Tank Plt.
"It's good to see what they can bring to the fight," observed the Manchester, Conn., native. "We've learned about them, and if we ever have to fight alongside them, we'll already have some knowledge about what they can do."
Meanwhile, Co. F and AAV Plt. demonstrated their specialized warfare skills with a live-fire mechanized assault April 12.
While the exercise was oriented around sharing tactics, the battalion was equally interested in developing friendly relations between troops from the two nations, said Starling.
After building relationships and exchanging skills, the MEU and its partner regiment capped the exercise with a massive capability display, April 15.
The demonstration featured air, vehicle, artillery and infantry assets performing a joint mechanized assault before a crowd of dignitaries and high-ranking officers from both the American and host nation militaries.
The combined arms display highlighted how much the battalion and Middle Eastern regiment achieved in just a few days time, said Gilbert.
"We conducted a massive live-fire operation," he explained. "That's tough enough to do with just (our own) troops, and we were able to do it alongside another nation's military."
"Training like that with foreign militaries is always good because it shows our Marines that the way we operate isn't always the way everyone else does business," he continued. "It's important to keep our allies close."
The 26th MEU is in the fourth month of a routine, scheduled deployment that began Jan. 6 as the landing force for the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group.
For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.