U.S., French Marines partner for training
By 1stLt James F. Stenger
| Marine Forces Europe and Africa | February 20, 2014
CAMP DE GARRIGUES, France --
The Ospreys descended and seemed to take off a moment later. The Marines had landed, but this time they had help.
This was the scene at Camp de Garrigues, outside of Nîmes, France, Feb. 9-14, 2014, where a group of U.S. and French Marines united for a bilateral exercise.
The purpose of the training was to enhance interoperability between the two groups. The American Marines arrived from Morón Air Base, Spain and are currently assigned to Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response. Their French counterparts belong to the 21st Marine Infantry Regiment of Fréjus, which is part of the 6th Light Armored Brigade, based in Nîmes.
The U.S. Marines came to the training hoping to learn from their allies but also refine their own skills.
“[Training like this] helps us keep our combat skills ready … When we deploy, we don’t want ours skills to degrade so it helps keep those skills fresh so, if we do get called to do a mission, we’re ready and able,” said Capt. Mark Robinson, a platoon commander with SP-MAGTF Crisis Response. “Also, it helps us to build connections with our French allies. For any future [operation] between our two units, we now know how each other works and it’s just going to make us that much more successful for the future.”
The training included two live-fire weapons ranges with multiple weapons systems, a set of tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, or TRAP, missions and a final exercise with a night-time reconnaissance and surveillance operation followed by a raid on a suspected enemy compound.
“Obviously you’re going to have your small kinks no matter where you go, no matter who you’re with or attached to, but that’s why we practice every day,” said Sgt. Andrew Rodriguez, a team leader with the task force. “[The French Marines] are a great bunch of guys and I’d be happy to go on a mission with them anywhere.”
After simulated combat operations were complete, the real contest began as the two units competed in a field meet including a game of Ultimate Frisbee, a relay race involving heavy cans filled with water, a simulated casualty movement, and finally, a push-up contest.
With four total events, the U.S. and French tied with two victories each. Instead of inventing a fifth game to decide a winner, the group called it a tie and moved on to enjoy a barbecue.
The U.S. Marines viewed the week of training as a success. The goal was to foster a working relationship between the two groups of Marines. According to Rodriguez, U.S. and French Marines are not all that different.
“It was actually really exciting to see that, as far being a professional, when it comes to soldiering, it’s the same no matter where you go,” he said. “It’s very similar. In spite of the language barrier everyone pulled together, it was very easy to see that everything we do is every much the same. So it was pretty cool to work hand-in-hand with the French.”
Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response is a self-deploying, self-mobile, and self-command and controlled crisis response force able to respond to U.S. Africa Command missions in a non-permissive environment to protect U.S. citizens, U.S. interests and other designated persons in the USAFRICOM area of responsibility.
The U.S. Marines are permanently based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and belong to Alpha Company 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.