Marines, French Legionnaires train for African Deployment

Marines, French Legionnaires train for African Deployment

U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Matthew Medina, right, a platoon commander with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, and a service member with the French Foreign Legions 6th Light Armored Brigade coordinate a route to the objective during a training exercise on Quartier Colonel de Chabrieres, France, May 29, 2015. Marines stationed at Moròn Air Base, Spain, conducted a seize and capture training exercise the 6th Light Armored Brigade to further improve interoperability between the two NATO forces as they concurrently deploy their service members to Africa. Photo by LCpl Christopher Mendoza.

MORON AIR BASE, Spain (June 5, 2015) – U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa trained with upwards of 60 French Foreign Legionnaires from the 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment, 6th Light Armored Brigade, in Nimes, France, May 27-29, as both units continue to deploy their Marines and Soldiers into Africa.

The Legionnaires, a renowned force mostly comprised of foreign nationals, are familiar with a broad mission set within Africa. They have frequently deployed to the continent in support of company-sized operations. The French force most recently deployed to Mali in 2013 and is currently serving in the Central African Republic, training with African partners in urban warfare in support of the United Nations' missions there.

SPMAGTF-CR-AF deploys teams of Marines to train with African partners or remain ready for crisis response missions. The U.S. Marine unit typically provides embassy reinforcement and evacuation capabilities, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and unique access with aviation assets that include the MV-22B Osprey.

"[The training] was significant because we don't always get the opportunity to train with other militaries," said Cpl Drew Blais, a squad leader with SPMAGTF-CR-AF. "Doing this is a good segway to how we would actually operate in Africa because [the French] are always there and that's our crisis-response area of operation right now."

The NATO allies focused their training on urban warfare. The three-day exercise demonstrated the unique capabilities of each force and spectrum of missions they may be called to execute. The training forced the Marines to sharpen their infantry skills in an urban environment, a perishable skill that the French are currently utilizing while deployed as an interposition force in the CAR. 

"Just like everything else in the military, it's all about practice," said Blais. "If you're not constantly working at it, it's going to go away and you're going to lose that. There are so many danger areas … you have dangers above you, below you. There are holes in walls, doors, and widows. There are people a thousand meters away looking at you do all these things. It's a much more kinetic environment so you always have to be cognizant."

"There are subtle differences in terminology, but the execution of our mission was almost the same," said Sgt Giulio Brad, a squad leader with the Legionnaires. "Working with [the Marines] was like working with our mirror image because they're like us in their mentality and the willingness to do things right."

Although there are no integrated missions occurring with the French Foreign Legionnaires and the U.S. Marines in Africa, it is clear that anyone would be hard-pressed to find a tougher and more professional team.

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