CAMP LEMONIER, DJIBOUTI -- Marines and sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit rolled ashore near here, Feb. 5, for the first exercise of a routine, scheduled deployment that began when the unit left North Carolina Jan. 6, aboard the ships of the Bataan Strike Group.
More than 150 troops, along with their gear and vehicles, were carried to the beach from the ships by Landing Crafts Air Cushioned from Assault Craft Unit-4 to participate in Image Nautilus, an exercise which includes bi-lateral training conducted with the Djiboutian military.
While the two missions differ in principle, they share a common over-arching importance, said Maj. Chris C. Lynch, executive officer for Combat Logistics Battalion-26th MEU.
"Our purpose here is to continue to build on the great relations we share with the Djiboutian people, both military and civilian," he said.
"We'll have a great chance to interact with this nation's people and military, to assist them and to assist us," he said.
For many of the MEU's troops, just being ashore in a location as far from home as Africa was an experience in itself, said Cpl. James M. Butts, a food service specialist from Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th MEU.
"It's a place most of us have never been to," he marveled. "I'm like, 'Wow, this is Africa'."
"I think the new environment will bring a refreshing change of pace to our training," he said.
The benefits of training and operating in new and unknown surroundings are already showing as the MEU successfully negotiated the unfamiliar beachhead, said Lynch.
For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.