26th MEU(SOC) Bravo Command Element and Italian San Marco Brigade Marines Strengthen Interoperability in the High North

17 Aug 2023 | 1st Lt. Stephanie Downing 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Elements of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (Special Operations Capable) Bravo Command Element are training alongside Norwegian Soldiers, from Brigade North, and Italian Marines, from San Marco Brigade, during a Norwegian bilateral training exercise.

The training event began with the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, USS Mesa Verde’s (LPD-19) arrival in Narvik, Norway to offload the 26th MEU(SOC)’s Bravo Command Element personnel and equipment for the upcoming training in Setermoen, Norway.

After arriving in Setermoen, 26th MEU(SOC) Bravo Command Element welcomed Italian Marines from San Marco Marine Brigade. The Italian Marines will be fully integrating into the Navy and Marine Corps team throughout the course of the ARG/MEU’s deployment commencing with the Norwegian bilateral training, which marks the first scheduled U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/Sixth Fleet operation, activity, investment (OAI) for the ARG/MEU.

The exercise will provide the BAT ARG/26th MEU(SOC) an opportunity to exchange tactics, techniques, and procedures, while participating in multiple integrated live-fire events, battle drills, patrols, and long-range hikes to strengthen the long-standing relationship with our NATO Ally and partner.

Prior to the arrival of the Norwegian Soldiers from Brigade North, the Marines of “Cold Steel” Battalion Landing Team 1/6 had the opportunity to work side-by-side and interoperate with the Italian Marines from San Marco Marine Brigade.

"This is a great opportunity for the Marines and Sailors to work closely with some of our valued NATO Allies and Partners." Col. Sampson, Commanding Officer of 26th MEU(SOC)

“Successfully integrating the Italian Marines from the San Marco Brigade into our formation with the Marines of Charlie Company, BLT 1/6 and conducting integrated training with Norwegian Soldiers from Brigade North was easy, and truly showcases our interoperability and interdependence with our Allies and Partners within the Sixth Fleet AOR.” Sampson concluded.

The Italian San Marco Brigade Marines were divided and integrated into each platoon of Charlie Company to form one cohesive unit.

For most of the Marines, this is the first time they will have the opportunity to work and integrate with our NATO Ally and partners.

“For the platoon, I would say this is a unique experience. This is the first time for a lot of the Marines to train with someone who did not receive the same training as them,” said 1st Lt. Blake Gratton, Charlie Company, 1st Platoon Commander. “Working with the Italians Marines went very well. Our Marines had to be concise and clear in communicating due to a slight language barrier, but as a whole, the Italian Marines were seamlessly able to operate with us at the squad level and below,” Gratton continued.

“To have the opportunity to be a part of the 26th MEU(SOC) allows us to share our tactics, techniques, and procedures, integrate effectively, as well as, to improve partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy,” said 1st Lt. Emilio Iusto, Liaison Naval Officer with San Marco Marine Brigade. “The Marines are really enjoying the experience to train. For some of them, it’s their first time working with a company of U.S. Marines, and now to become a part of Charlie Company. It is very cool, and they are very happy to train with the U.S. Marines,” Iusto continued.

The 26th MEU(SOC) serves as one of the United States premier crisis response forces capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response, and limited contingency operations, to include enabling the introduction of follow-on-forces and designated special operations, in support of theater requirements of the Geographic Combatant Commander. Coupled with the USS Bataan ARG, the 26th MEU(SOC) serves as a premier stand-in force with a full complement of all-domain capabilities to operate persistently within the littorals or weapons engagement zones of an adversary.

The Bataan ARG and embarked 26th MEU(SOC), under the tactical command and control of Task Force 61/2, is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied, and partner interests.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa operates U.S. Naval Forces in the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.

Marine Corps Forces Europe & Africa