USS ANCHORAGE -- Elements of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit concluded a bilateral training exercise with the French 5th Overseas Combined Arms Regiment (RIAOM) which began September 21 and concluded on October 7 in Djibouti.
The Marines participating in the course were assigned to the 15th MEU’s Force Reconnaissance Detachment, Delta Company, Light Armored Reconnaissance Detachment, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (Reinforced). All of these elements are currently part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The training began with an indoctrination phase, where French instructors tested Marines and French soldiers physically and mentally on land and in the water to ensure that they were ready for the grueling desert survival course.
After indoctrination, Marines and French soldiers entered into the official execution of the course at the Arta training area in Djibouti. Maj. Robert Tart, executive officer of BLT 3/1 spoke on the different phases of the desert commando course.
Mountain obstacle courses and basic desert survival training made up the first five-day phase of the desert commando course. The basic desert survival lessons included skinning goats for food, procuring drinking water, and the best way to carry gear in the desert.
“The Marines and French soldiers then occupied a forward operating base (FOB) to conduct the second phase of the course, offensive and defensive operations. This phase incorporated patrolling, reconnaissance, security, and defensive tactics,” Tart said.
Tart explained that the Marines and French soldiers then transitioned to a company-level day and night live-fire exercise with U.S. Light Armored Vehicles (LAV-25) and French AMX-10 vehicles training side-by-side. The exercise culminated in a battalion-level operation complete with reconnaissance missions and the seizure of multiple objectives by both French soldiers and U.S. Marines.
“We were able to build a better working relationship with our French brothers in arms, and were able to share ways that we conduct planning as well as tactics,” added Tart.
At the final objective of the battalion level operation, Brigadier General Philippe Montocchio, Chief of French Forces stationed in Djibouti, and the French commando course staff held a ceremony to award the Marines and soldiers that participated in the course with the French commando badge.
Lt. Col. Ted Greeley, the commanding officer of BLT 3/1, spoke on the benefits of the 15th MEU’s participation in the course, at both a strategic and tactical level.
“At the strategic level, this course provided an opportunity to strengthen the already existing partnership between U.S. and French forces. At the tactical level, the training provided by this course enhanced interoperability and allowed both sides to share tactics and procedures with one another,” Greeley said.
In addition to the desert commando course, Marines from the 15th MEU’s Force Reconnaissance Detachment conducted free-fall jump operations with French paratroopers.
This is the latest bilateral exercise between U.S. Marines and RIAOM at CLDJ, the last of which occurred in 2015 with the 24th MEU.
The 15th MEU provides a forward deployed, flexible sea-based Marine air-ground task force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response and limited contingency operations, to include designed special operations, in order to support the theater requirements of geographic combatant commanders. The 15th MEU is currently deployed aboard the ships of Essex Amphibious Ready Group.