MIDDLE EAST --
Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit demonstrated their interoperability with Middle Eastern counterparts at an exercise in the Middle East Oct. 28, 2008. The 26th MEU conducted the exercise to strengthen cooperation with regional partners.
The exercise was the culmination of several days bilateral training the 26th MEU conducted there. The Marines trained with their Middle Eastern counterparts at several warfighting abilities, including combined air parachuting, Military Operations in Urban Terrain, live-fire exercises and other infantry-level skills.
Senior military and civilian officials from both nations arrived the morning of the 28th to observe the final exercise, or FINEX.
Shortly after 9:30 a.m. as they looked out over several hundred square kilometers of desert, observers were greeted by the explosion of the "enemy" anti-air facilities, courtesy of host-nation special forces, making way for a combined air assault from host-nation helicopters, U.S. AV-8B Harrier jets and AH-1 Super Cobra attack helicopters from the MEU's Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Rein).
Nearly simultaneously, a U.S. Navy Landing Craft Air-Cushioned brought a company of host-nation Marines, who rushed forward to the first phase-line in preparation for their combined final attack.
With "enemy" command and control facilities destroyed by the air assault, two support by fire positioned opened up with heavy machine guns, Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided (TOW) missiles, 81mm mortars and a variety of other weapons. The support by fire positions knocked out enemy weapons positions and suppressed the enemy in preparation for the next phase of the operation.
26th MEU's Super Cobras returned, laying down suppressing fire as seven accompanying CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters brought in Fox Co., Battalion Landing Team 2/6, the MEU's Ground Combat Element. The Marines landed north of their host-nation counterparts and quickly prepared for the joint assault.
As the Sea Knights flew off, the support by fire positions resumed their rain of fire on enemy positions and the combined infantry assault began. Fighting side-by-side, the Marines and host-nation Marines consolidated on the enemy position, firing small arms, Shoulder-launched Multi-purpose Assault Weapons (SMAW), and Rocket-Propelled Grenades until the cease-fire sounded, indicating successful destruction of the enemy.
"These kinds of events are truly important," said 26th MEU Commanding Officer Col. Mark J. Desens. "They demonstrate to our friends and the world that the U.S. is a team player, willing to train with friends and allies to strengthen both our forces and our relationships."