VAZIANI TRAINING AREA, Georgia --
Exercise Agile Spirit 14 started with a “bang” as Marines and sailors with Black Sea Rotational Force 14, from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, fired on various weapon ranges with soldiers of the Georgian Armed Forces in the Vaziani Training Area, Georgia, June 10-11, 2014.
Agile Spirit 14 is an annually-scheduled bilateral engagement hosted by Georgia that began in 2011 in order to strengthen interoperability between the two countries by conducting brigade and battalion-level training engagements, to include small-unit interaction between the Marines and Georgians that demonstrates their commitments toward collective, global security.
“The ranges were pretty well-paced,” said Lance Cpl. Patrick Phelan, a forward observer with 81mm Platoon, Weapons Co. “It gave some Marines the opportunity to fire a lot of weapon systems they don’t normally fire. There were known range shoots, which is always good practice for us. The machine gun range builds familiarity with those of us who don’t typically get time to fire (heavy machine guns).”
The Marines and Georgians fired the M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun, the M249 light machine gun, the M240B medium machine gun, the AT-4 anti-tank weapon system and the Light Armor Weapon trainers, along with their standard service rifles, the M4 and M16, and M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.
“These are weapons organic to an infantry unit,” Phelan said. “These are all things we should be familiar with. We won’t always be using our service rifles; we may have to pick up a machine gun and know how to use it.”
These live-fire weapon ranges set the tone for the rest of the exercise.
“This really joins the Marines and Georgian soldiers at the hips,” said Capt. Thomas Perna, the platoon commander for the Combined Anti-Armor Team, Weapons Company. “The more exposure we have to each other’s techniques, we can integrate and operate more effectively and focus on the nuts and bolts of making a cohesive unit together.”
Next on tap for the Marines and Georgians is lane training, where they’ll train together in reacting to different scenarios, to include improvised explosive devices, cordoning and searching, and security patrolling.
“I think (Agile Spirit) is a great opportunity to build those relationships,” Perna said. “We’re teaching them things, and they’re teaching us a lot as well. They do some things differently, which is good because it exposes us to a different mindset. I’m excited to see what happens during the rest of the exercise.”
Black Sea Rotational Force 14 is a rotational contingent of Marines and sailors positioned to build robust military relations with partner nations, increase regional stability and enable interoperability while providing the capability for contingency response, as directed by U.S. European Command, in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions of Eastern Europe.