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A U.S. Marine with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, from the USS Arlington (LPD-24) holds security with Portuguese Marines at Pinheiro Da Cruz, Praia Da Raposa beach in Portugal, while participating in a combined amphibious assault exercise, Oct. 20, 2015, during Trident Juncture 15. Trident Juncture is a NATO-led exercise designed to certify NATO response forces and develop interoperability among participating NATO and partner nations.

Photo by Sgt. Austin Long

U.S., Portuguese Marines train side-by-side during Trident Juncture 15

9 Nov 2015 | Sgt. Austin Long 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

U.S. Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, aboard the USS Arlington (LPD 24) and Portuguese Marines completed an amphibious beach assault training exercise, Oct. 20, 2015, at Pinheiro Da Cruz, Praia Da Raposa beach, Portugal, during Trident Juncture 15.
Trident Juncture 15 is the largest NATO-led exercise in 20 years. The exercise aims to increase interoperability, partner relations, and improve war-fighting capabilities. Focus of the exercise will also center on maritime force readiness, so that NATO commands can provide war-fighting readiness for European and African commands.
“Participating in an exercise of this scale is important for the Navy and Marine Corps because it demonstrates our nation’s commitment to NATO and our collective defense responsibilities,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Daniel Coleman, the commander of troops with the 26th MEU, aboard the USS Arlington. “It also allows us to strengthen partnerships and improve our ability to operate and cooperate with allied militaries. This exercise is an opportunity to see how our tactical training and preparation has strategic importance. Participating in a large exercise like Trident Juncture demonstrates our nation’s commitment to securing important interests.”
U.S. and Portuguese Marines, along with a variety of armored military vehicles, embarked on two landing craft air-cushions, or LCACs, from the USS Arlington approximately three miles from the beach prior to the assault. The integrated forces landed on the beach to assault the beach head, displaying the effectiveness of working together to accomplish a common goal. 
“This is a great opportunity to show that we are able to operate together,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Eric Hamstra, the lead Strike Force NATO planner. “Everything has been great and the U.S. and Portuguese Marines have worked well together. I think this demonstrates our resolve to stick together across 28 countries.”
Once on the beach, U.S. and Portuguese Marines worked together to secure the beach head and maintain security, while U.S. Marines drove vehicles from the LCACs inland.
The Marines then advanced forward with the vehicles to establish a forward command operations center and logistics staging area that will allow for quicker coordination during following training exercises.
“This exercise demonstrates that the U.S. Marine Corps can operate anywhere in the world and it demonstrates that we can operate with the Portuguese Marines. If we can do that here, then we can do that with them anywhere in the world,” said Hamstra. “NATO is able to demonstrate its flexibility, NATO is reliable, and NATO is dependable. At the tactical level, where Portuguese Marines and U.S. Marines work together, our equipment is inter-operable, and our tactics, techniques, and procedures all work very well together. All the expectations were met and seen during the beach assault exercise.”
Trident Juncture 15 is an exercise designed to work with allies in order to maintain high-end war fighting readiness across NATO. The 26th MEU’s role while participating in this exercise is to work with NATO and its partners in order to strengthen maritime security, stability, and overall relationships.
“Trident Juncture is a tremendous opportunity and exposes the Marines to an environment that will increasingly be the norm for us,” said Coleman. “Rarely will the U.S. operate in theatre alone, and exercises like Trident Juncture allow us to work through some of the challenges inherent to working across cultures and organizations in order to improve interoperability and achieve common objectives.” 
Conducting this exercise aims to utilize the partnership of U.S. forces and partner nations to build maritime security and stability for the development of new forward capabilities in theater.
“As a member of NATO, we have a collective defense responsibility and an exercise like Trident Juncture provides an important venue for member nations to forge ties and improve interoperability that will pay off in times of crisis,” said Coleman. “This exercise is an opportunity to see how our tactical training and preparation has strategic consequence.”
By securing the maritime environment, NATO allies safeguard regional and global economic, energy, and food security. NATO aims to help African and European nations build their capacity and capability to protect their waters, security and commerce.
Exercises of this scale take a considerable amount of time to plan. Planning for Trident Juncture 15 began approximately two years prior to its start, and involved approximately 36 nations with five nations observing the process. A year ago, Strike Force NATO became involved and chose to utilize the 26th MEU and Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (KSGARG), said Hamstra. 
“The overall exercise has about 35,000 plus forces, 200 aircraft, 64 ships, and 8 submarines participating from all NATO nations,” said Hamstra. “These nations are completing various exercises in Italy, Spain, and Portugal.”
Trident Juncture is a two-part exercise. The first part of the exercise tested command and control of coalition forces and certified Joint Force Command Blumsom and all its components as the NATO Response Force, which is a high-readiness quick response force that draws from all of the allied nations. 
The second part of the exercise, currently being conducted, is the largest practical maritime exercise in over twenty years. With all forces participating in the exercise added together, it is the largest in over ten years, said Hamstra.
“What we are doing is building more assurance and get more nations to become involved so we can practice our interoperability and show our capabilities,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Roy Kitchner, the chief of staff with Strike Force NATO. “It’s outstanding training for everybody and we are getting to work on multiple capabilities. What you are seeing through this exercise is our commitment, as an alliance, to get back to doing more inter-operability. It sends a message that the alliance is strong, the alliance is going to take care of each other, we are capable, we can work together, and together we’re pretty strong.”

26th Marine Expeditionary Unit