U.S. Marines, French Foreign Legion Join in Training
By Sgt. Bradly Shaver, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
ARTA PLAGE, Djibouti, Sep. 17, 2003 Marines of Task Force Rawhide, 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Antiterrorism), participated in training with the French Foreign Legion, 13th Half Brigade, at the French Commando Training Center here Sept. 7-12.
The Maries were deployed to provide Marine Central Command at Camp Lemonier with antiterrorism security. The camp is the headquarters for Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, whose mission is to detect, deter and defeat terrorists in the Horn of Africa region.
The task force trained with the French commandos to increase their skills in amphibious operations and physical fitness, a task force officer said.
"Being deployed to Africa gave the Marines a unique experience they would not have had back in the United States," said 1st Lt. James Moran, executive officer of Mike Company, Task Force Rawhide. "A lot of our Marines haven't been out of the country before, so being here gives them firsthand experience in a new environment with a completely new force. We can't get that back in the United States, so I think we need to take advantage of it as much as we can here."
The task force Marines and French Foreign Legion soldiers participated in training and exercises, which included working with each other's equipment and competing in timed races over different courses.
"This helps out our mission in a very good way," Moran said, adding that the training built unit cohesion not only for the Marines who participated, but also with the French soldiers.
"We gained much needed knowledge from the French commandos and their capabilities," Moran said.
Under the supervision of French instructors, the Marines faced a 200-meter swim test with rifle, land and water obstacle courses, snorkeling exercises, tactical rope crossings, day and night rappelling, a live-fire exercise with both French and American weapons, a beach landing, and unloading equipment from a French vessel.
"The training mission was outstanding. Every time I've cross-trained with any other military it's always been a great experience. This surpassed anything I've ever done in my career," said Gunnery Sgt. Denis O'Sullivan, company gunnery sergeant of Mike Company, Task Force Rawhide. "Our Marines cannot say enough about the training they had, and we're looking forward to the next training exercise with them."
O'Sullivan said he liked the bond the Marines had formed. "You could see the Marines working together, making small-unit leadership decisions. It was motivating to see everybody come together as a team trying to get through the obstacles and missions," he said.
The Marines of Mike Company, 1st Platoon, conducted a three-day amphibious training and fitness package. After the training evolution, the platoon returned to Camp Lemonier and took over second platoon's job providing security for personnel here, giving the rest of Task Force Rawhide the opportunity to participate in the specialized training.
According to Cpl. Miguel Hernandez, section leader with Mike Company, it was a burden to pick up the slack, but all the Task Force Rawhide Marines were happy to receive specialized training and did it without hesitation. "It was an experience I will not forget."