26th MEU Marines endure African climate to train in Djibouti

12 Nov 2010 | Lance Cpl. Santiago G. Colon Jr

Marines with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived on the shores of a Djiboutian beach to scorching temperatures and the site of donkeys, camels and a mountainous landscape to conduct sustainment training at the end of October 2010.

More than 200 Marines with Fox Battery 2/12 arrived on the African beach to perform a six-day training evolution consisting of fire mission exercises for the M777A2 Howitzer and M224 mortar, a machine gun shoot, and other training.

The main goal of the Djibouti exercise for Fox Battery 2/12 was to sharpen combat procedures in a new environment after spending weeks at sea, said Cpl. David C. Sparks, a field radio operator with Fox Battery 2/12.

"This was a good chance to knock the rust off and stretch our legs on land," said Sparks, who added that the ability to perform sustainment training in the open spaces ashore reinforced the Marines' skills. "No matter what we do, we perform as a battery by shooting, moving and communicating."

For Marines with Company L, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th MEU, who arrived to conduct their sustainment training Oct. 27 through Nov. 2, Djibouti was a chance to sharpen combat skills on a larger scale than what is available aboard USS Carter Hall, said 1st Sgt. Troy A. Nicks, Company L first sergeant.

"The main focus of Djibouti was on critical and crucial skill sets at the platoon-level," Nicks said.

While on ship, Marines with Company L rehearsed their tactics as squads and fire teams, Nicks added. The Djiboutian training was a culmination of training aboard ship as an entire company.

During the six-day training evolution, Marines conducted squad and platoon-level events, including patrols through the rugged terrain and mountains, physical training, military classes, an obstacle course, and simulated mechanized raids with Amphibious Assault Vehicle Platoon.

The terrain and environment provided the Marines a realistic feel to a battlefield they might face in the future, added Nicks.

"The Djibouti training was a win-win for the company as we got some very valuable training time," Nicks said.

Corporal Tristan B. Pursley, a machine gunner with Company L who deployed to Afghanistan in Fall 2008, said the training was invaluable to the present deployment and future possible deployments.

"The mountainous terrain and heat were extremely similar to Afghanistan," said Pursley. "This training environment was the best we have had so far."

The last day of the training evolution Company L held a "beach bash" for the Marines and sailors as a chance to relax after intense training, said Nicks. The bash consisted of grilled hot dogs and a bonfire on the beach.

"During the bash we had a little warrior's class and had veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan talk about their experiences and how their training really benefitted them at specific times," Nicks said.

Their time in Djibouti was not only a successful training opportunity but also a memorable event for Marines with Company L, added Nicks.

"The Marines will always remember Djibouti," said Nicks. "I know I will."