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Marines, Soldiers Participate in Trilateral Firing Exercise

By Sgt. Bradly Shaver, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti, Sept. 30, 2003 – U.S. Marines and soldiers trained alongside host-nation and French military forces here Sept. 24 during a live-fire training exercise that included helicopter operations.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Lance Cpl. Nick Sanatora (left) and Marine Cpl. Greg Pinsonneault, assigned to Mike Company, Task Force Rawhide, 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism), help a Djiboutian soldier with an M-249 automatic weapon during a live-fire training exercise at a shooting range near Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, Sept. 24. This was the first trilateral firing exercise in Djibouti with service members from Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, French forces Djibouti and Djiboutian armed forces. Photo by Sgt. Bradly Shaver, USMC

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The Marines are assigned to Mike Company, Task Force Rawhide, 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism) and the soldiers are from 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 10th Mountain Division.

This training, held at a range near here, was designed to strengthen relations among three countries, officials said, adding it was the first trilateral firing exercise for service members from Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, French forces in Djibouti and the Djiboutian armed forces.

The Marines and soldiers are here supporting the joint task force's mission of detecting, deterring and defending against transnational terrorism in the East African region.

"In order to continue building on the cohesiveness of forces in the Horn of Africa, a trilateral training exercise was held on helicopter operations and weapons familiarization in order to continue the progression of joint training conducted between forces," said Army Master Sgt. Chris Fields, task force training chief.

Fields said the intent of the exercise was to further the development of joint operations capabilities among the three countries.

"We accomplished this task by conducting professional weapons and helicopter orientation classes and a (training) package at Arta and Maryam ranges," he said.

During the familiarization, the participants used the M-4 and M-16 service rifles, M-203 grenade launcher, M-249 automatic weapon, M-240 machine gun, AK-47 assault rifle, PKM light machine gun, and the FAMAS F-2 multimission weapon. Classes were given on each weapon prior to individual firing.

"By firing this wide range of weaponry, the Djiboutian armed forces, French forces and the U.S. forces have obtained a higher understanding of the proficiency and capabilities of each other's individual weapons systems and an understanding of helicopter operations in Djibouti," Fields said.

When three different countries join together to conduct one training exercise it is a huge event, Fields added. "We were able to exceed the commander's intent to bring all three countries together in an environment that is conducive for operational enhancements in the Horn of Africa."

Fields said he sought feedback from the French and Djiboutian participants.

"I continually asked what the French and Djiboutian militaries had thought about the training, and they were both very appreciative of the event," he said. "They really praised the professionalism of the American soldiers and Marines."

The French have trained with the American and Djiboutian militaries before in different parts of the world, but never with both forces at the same time, according to French Army Capt. Romain Lallement, tank platoon leader.

"It's good to know foreign procedures, not only with American (and Djiboutian) weapons, but also with the helicopters," said Lallement. "Passing that knowledge on to the French military helps us get to know how Americans train with their own equipment, which is always good while deployed together.

Training with the helicopters included loading and off-loading procedures during the flights to and from the ranges. For this evolution, two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 were used.

"In other places where U.S. and French forces deploy together, we are not able to switch off weapons and train with them. We now have time for training," Lallement explained. "Our troops enjoy doing this type of training here; they think of it as sharing."

This being their last training exercise in Djibouti, Lallement said his troops enjoyed the trilateral firing exercise, and the opportunity to train with the Americans and Djiboutians has made it that much more memorable.

"The professionalism shown by each service was outstanding," said Fields. "It's always important for allied forces to work together. An event like this helps military forces understand the capabilities and limitations of each force, but more importantly, it establishes a better working relationship with the soldiers of different forces."


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