BALTOPS 2015 Integrates Amphibious NATO Forces

BALTOPS 2015 Integrates Amphibious NATO Forces

NATO Allied Marines from the U.K., U.S., Sweden, and Finland simulate amphibious assaults on a Swedish beachhead during BALTOPS 2015, June 10. The 17 Allied and partner countries will integrate their air, land, and sea operations and procedures to demonstrate the combined-forces capability to respond to threats in the Baltic region. Photo by Sgt Tatum Vayavananda.

BALTIC SEA (June 17, 2015) – Marines from four NATO nations come together during BALTOPS from June 7-17. U.K. Royal Marine Commandos, Finnish Coastal Jaegers, Swedish and U.S. Marines integrate to practice expeditionary, ship-to-shore assaults to enhance their capability to work together as a combined amphibious force.

"The U.K. [Commandos] and [United States Marine Corps] work together often, so we have similar procedures. Working with the USMC, Finnish and Swedish Marines is great because it gives a lot of depth to what we normally do," said British Capt Christopher Viggars, U.K. Royal Commandos. "We're adding that aspect into our training, which only helps us down the line if we did have to do operations with people who work with completely different kit (equipment), people we don't operate with very often, and possible language barriers."

Amphibious drills give each nation's Marines the opportunity to improve their expeditionary warfare skills together as a NATO force.

"As a NATO force, we've got multinational troops, people speaking different languages, people using different equipment and landing crafts; if we went straight into an operation without practicing, it wouldn't be very well organized," said Viggars.

BALTOPS is NATO's multinational maritime exercise in its 43rd iteration. Along with the multinational amphibious force are 13 additional Allies and partners that come together in the Baltics to improve their capabilities to collectively respond to a range of real-world situations.

"Although over the last decade or so we've been working on land operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, we are the only forces that operate from shipping to land; nobody else can do that," said Viggars. "We are an amphibious infantry and that's in itself is a specialization that allows us to do what we do and makes Marines such an asset to have because we have both the land element and the ability to work from shipping-to-shore."

The relationships and improved capabilities built during the exercise allow the force to operate throughout the region, enhancing and refining a responsive force to defend the Baltics if needed.

"The enemy doesn't just operate in one region; there are threats all over the world," said LCpl Joseph M. Hunsaker, machine gun section leader, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

"You never know what the opposition will throw at you; amphibious assault is bringing the fight to their doorstep and if the beach is the only way we can get into their battlespace, then we can do that," said Hunsaker.

BALTOPS includes approximately 5,600 ground, maritime and air forces from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, United States and the United Kingdom.

"If you look back in history, it's not just the U.S. versus anyone else; we always have our Allies, who are on the same page and believes in the same fight, said Hunsaker. "Marines around the world hold themselves to a certain standard; these guys train all the time and are good at what they do and when we come out here it just flows."

The total force will operate in Poland, Sweden, Germany, and throughout the Baltic Sea to demonstrate air defense, maritime interdiction, and anti-subsurface warfare along with the amphibious operations.

"It's good to come out here and work together and not just talk about it, to see how we train and, if we are called into a situation, know how to operate together. We're training for when the world needs a 911 force to call on."

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