Arta Plage, Djibouti -- Marines of Task Force Rawhide, 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Antiterrorism), participated in bilateral training with the French Foreign Legion, 13th Half Brigade, at the French Commando Training Center here, Sept. 7-12.
Having been deployed to provide Marine Central Command at Camp Lemonier with antiterrorism security, Task Force Rawhide took the opportunity to train with the French Commandos in order to increase their skills in amphibious operations and physical fitness.
"Being deployed to Africa gave the Marines a unique experience they would not have had back in the United States," said 1st Lt. James Moran, executive officer of Mike Company, Task Force Rawhide. "A lot of our Marines haven't been out of the country before, so being here it gives them firsthand experience in a new environment with a completely new force. We can't get that back in the United States, so I think we need to take advantage of it as much as we can here."
The Task Force Marines and French Foreign Legion soldiers participated in training and exercises, which included working with each other's equipment and competing in timed races over different courses.
"This helps out our mission in a very good way," Moran said. "The training we conducted with each other built unit cohesion not only in our company, but also with the French military. We gained much needed knowledge from the French Commandos and their capabilities."
Under the supervision of French instructors, the Marines faced a 200-meter swim test with rifle, obstacle courses both on land and water, snorkeling, tactical rope crossings, day and night rappelling, a live-fire exercise with both French and American weapons, beach landing with zodiacs, and loading equipment from a French vessel.
"The training mission was outstanding. Every time I've cross-trained with any other [NATO] military it's always been a great experience. This surpassed anything I've ever done in my career," said Gunnery Sgt. Denis O'Sullivan, company gunnery sergeant of Mike Company, Task Force Rawhide. "Our Marines cannot say enough about the training they had, and we're looking forward to the next training exercise with them."
The six-day training package was broken down into two phases; one phase for each for first and second platoons.
O'Sullivan said he liked the bond the Marines had formed. "You could see the Marines working together, making small unit leadership decisions. It was motivating to see everybody come together as a team trying to get through the obstacles and missions," he said.
French Capt. Le Bihan, the chief of the Commando Training Center, said the Legionnaires not only taught the Marines, but also learned new training techniques and methods themselves.
"It was a good experience for us to train with the Marines," said French Adjutant Le Page, head instructor for the training. "For most of our men, they've never worked with American forces before, and after the training you could tell everybody had a good time by seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter."
Page said it was important for the French Foreign Legion to train with the Marines. "Training day after day with the same crew can be monotonous, so training with the American military for a change was a different and helpful learning period," he said.
The Marines of Mike Co., first platoon conducted a three-day amphibious training and fitness package. After the training evolution, the platoon returned to Camp Lemonier and took over second platoon's job providing security for personnel here; thus giving the rest of Task Force Rawhide the opportunity to participate in the specialized training.
According to Cpl. Miguel Hernandez, section leader with Mike Co., it was a burden to pick up the slack, but all the Marines of Task Force Rawhide were happy to receive specialized training and did it without hesitation. "It was an experience I will not forget."
Camp Lemonier is currently the headquarters for Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa whose mission is to detect, deter and defeat transnational terrorists in the Horn of Africa region.