Marines, Djiboutians Train Side by Side During Image Nautilus
By Cpl. Jeremy Ross, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
MYRIAM RANGE, Djibouti, Feb. 16, 2007 Marines and sailors from Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, yesterday wrapped up five days of bilateral, live-fire training with troops from the Djiboutian army as Exercise Image Nautilus 2007 came to a close.
During each day of the live-fire training, which began Feb. 10, more than 60 troops from the unit’s light armored reconnaissance and combined anti-armor team platoons worked side by side with dozens of Djiboutian soldiers to fire nearly every infantry weapon in the MEU’s arsenal.
The focus of the training was to give both forces an opportunity to familiarize each other with their different weapon systems and tactics while giving the MEU’s troops a chance to get some valuable trigger time, said Marine 1st Lt. Rollin A. Steele, LAR platoon commander.
Throughout the exercise the Marines took time to explain to their Djiboutian counterparts the operation and firing techniques of the U.S. weapons they were shooting. The Americans also got a chance to fire the host nation’s weapons as they put rounds down range with AK-47 assault rifles, PKM light machine guns and Draganov sniper rifles.
Shooting with unfamiliar weapons was a new experience for many of the Marines and highlighted a key difference between the two nations’ militaries, said Marine Cpl. Todd M. Zielinski, a scout team leader with the LAR platoon.
“It was cool getting to shoot with their weapons,” he explained. “You could really feel the difference between their (rifles) and ours.”
The Marines’ precision tactics were on display as they conducted an Enhanced Marksmanship Program range. Having demonstrated the techniques used in close-quarters firing, the Marines then walked the Djiboutian troops through the course of fire.
Seeing another nation’s military in action was a valuable experience for the Djiboutian troops, said Djiboutian army 1st Lt. Rachid Ismael. “This was a big experience for my men,” he said. “It has given them some different ideas and perspectives on training and shooting that they can take back to their own units.”
The expansive ranges here also gave the MEU’s troops an opportunity to shoot more explosive weaponry: M-203 grenade launchers, shoulder-launched, multi-purpose assault weapons, and M-136 AT-4 rockets.
While the U.S. Marines and Djiboutian soldiers adjusted to each others’ inherent differences, professionalism, safety and military bearing were universal throughout the training, said Marine Staff Sgt. Arthur Abrego Jr., the platoon sergeant for a combined anti-armor team platoon.
“Just like our military, (the Djiboutian soldiers) have a strong sense of duty and discipline,” he said. “They had professional attitudes and were proficient in their weapons handling.”
The patience, attention to detail and hard work the Marines and Djiboutians put in to the exercise helped make Image Nautilus a bilateral success, Steele said.
“I think it gave our troops the confidence that if someday we fight alongside American troops, we can communicate and work together effectively to accomplish our missions,” Ismael agreed.
The bilateral training at Myriam Range marked the final events in conjunction with Image Nautilus. Marines and sailors from BLT 2/2 and Combat Logistics Battalion 26 kicked off the exercise Feb. 6 with a two-day community relations project at Ecole du Stade Primary School in Djibouti City.
The 26th MEU departed North Carolina on Jan. 6 on a routine deployment as the landing force for the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group. In addition to USS Bataan, the strike group includes the USS Oak Hill, USS Shreveport, USS Nitze, USS Vella Gulf, USS Underwood and USS Scranton.
The Bataan ESG is currently supporting maritime security operations in the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command area of operations. Such missions help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment and complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
(Marine Cpl. Jeremy Ross is assigned to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs.)