By Cpl. Ian Leones, Marine Corps Forces Reserves
CAMP GRAYLING, Mich. --
Marines with 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, participated in Exercise Arctic Eagle at Camp Grayling, Michigan, April 24-25, 2015.
The Marines joined soldiers from the Michigan National Guard’s 272nd Regional Support Group and Danish Home Guard, an all-volunteer branch of the Danish military focused on national defense, at this joint service and international exercise. The exercise aligns a mutual desire to address the defense of key infrastructure in the Arctic Circle.
“The 272nd RSG approached the battalion to participate in Arctic Eagle and we jumped at the opportunity,” said Maj. Jason A. Charkowski, the assistant operations officer for 1/24. “The Danish Home Guard was part of the package. They participated in all of the major operations of this exercise and the opportunity to attach them to us is valuable training.”
The value of the training comes from the chance to train with an allied force at Camp Grayling’s unique facilities, which include multiple urban warfare training areas and several ranges.
The event also incorporated the Coast Guard and civilian agencies, and spanned across different areas of northern Michigan.
“At Rockport State Recreation Area, they dealt with scenarios related to maritime security,” Charkowski said. “Here in Grayling, we aimed to train counterinsurgency, stability operations, and interaction with local populous and local government agencies.”
In order to practice those skills, the Marines, with an attachment of Danish troops, simulated retaking a city from enemy insurgents at Camp Grayling’s Combined Arms Collective Training Facility, which consists of a collection of residential buildings designed to train military operations in urbanized terrain.
“There are a lot of different facilities at Camp Grayling we can take advantage of, including this one here,” said Cpl. Caleb N. Skaggs, a squad leader with Charlie Company, 1/24. “It's going to help us develop our military operations on urban terrain skills as well as our skills working with adjacent units, figuring out our strengths and weaknesses and what we can bring to the table to accomplish the mission.”
Skaggs said he hoped his Marines would take away critical thinking skills from the exercise.
“I want my Marines to learn to think for themselves, and I think this is a great exercise for that because there are a lot of different types of things to deal with out here, not just threats,” Skaggs said. “There are a lot of benign elements as well, and I want the Marines to be able to analyze that and determine a course of action for any given scenario.”
In this scenario, civilian and Army role players took up the task of playing the citizens and opposition forces, making it critical for the Marines and their Danish counterparts to adapt to the threats and non-threats of the situation.
“We wanted to learn from the American troops and how they conduct urban fighting,” said Pvt. Rolf Paulsen, a rifleman with the Danish Home Guard. “If we should conduct multinational operations in the future, it's useful to have a take on how Marines operate."
Paulsen said he would take home many different lessons from training with the Marines.
“One thing we learned from the Marines is the speed, pace, and aggressiveness that they use,” he said. “It's not that common in the Danish military. We are a bit more cautious in how we advance on a position.”
The Marines also gained perspective on how to communicate with and understand the tactics of a partner nation.
Lance Cpl. Joseph P. Davey, a field radio operator with Headquarters and Service Company, 1/24, was attached to a Danish squad during the main operation and learned firsthand how vital communication can be in a chaotic scenario.
“What I took away from this was the importance of good communication,” Davey said. “It can be difficult to communicate when there is a language barrier.”
This training also gave the Marines an opportunity to gain a new outlook on skills they practice regularly.
"I think too often we get sucked into our own perspective," Skaggs said. "It's always a good thing to see how other people do things, what they think and how they go about accomplishing their mission. We can develop from that and become better Marines.”
While many lessons were learned on both sides, exercises like Arctic Eagle make it possible for the Marines to meet their annual training goals despite fiscal constraints and limited resources.
“It was a unique opportunity to have a joint service, international exercise locally in Michigan,” Charkowski said. “Normally, we would have to send Marines to a major base or training facility to achieve this type of training. In this case, we were able to leverage the local Army unit to achieve the same objective.”
By prioritizing the available resources, the Marines were able to gain high level training and remain ready to respond to future contingencies.