MIDDLE EAST --
Nearly three hundred Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit debarked the USS Iwo Jima for a weeklong training exercise with a Middle Eastern nation, Nov. 18-24, 2008.
The purpose of the exercise was to build a rapport with the host nation, explained Lt. Col. Andrew Kostic, the commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team 2/6, the Ground Combat Element of the 26th MEU. “The more countries we have good relations with, the better off we are as a nation and as a military,” he said.
The exercise was a company bilateral training exercise with a company of U.S. Marines and a company of host nation Marines, Kostic explained.
The majority of the Marines participating in the exercise were from Golf Co., BLT 2/6, who’s Marines took part in a variety of training events including mechanized squad attacks and team building exercises. Later in the week, the platoons had the chance to join in dismounted platoon attacks with the Middle Eastern platoons.
Cpl. Luis Hernandez said that he felt the training benefited Marines of both nations.
“It was good training for us and the [host nation] Marines,” said the Golf Co. squad leader. “It was good to get some training in.”
The MEU’s 81mm mortar platoon also had the opportunity to train with the host nation Marines. The U.S. Marines shared the same gun line as the host nation Marines and occasionally had the opportunity to combine efforts.
“The mortars integrated extremely well,” the battalion commander said. “They integrated mortar squads; a couple of the Marines from each squad went down and interacted with the (host nation) Marines."
Despite a few minor setbacks the operation was a resounding success, said Kostic.
“Overall the exercise went extremely well,” he said. “(It was a) good demonstration of interaction of the bilateral training with the Marines from Golf Co., 81s and the (host nation) Marines.”
The 26th MEU is currently forward deployed aboard the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf in support of local operations.