Camp Lemonier, Djibouti -- Marines from Mike Co., Task Force Rawhide, 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism) and soldiers from 3rd platoon, Charlie Company, 10th Mountain Division, trained alongside host nation militaries here during a live-fire training exercise that included helicopter operations Sept. 24.
This training, designed to strengthen relations between three countries, was the first Tri-Lateral Firing Exercise held with service members from Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, French Forces Djibouti and Djiboutian Armed Forces at a range near Camp Lemonier.
The Marines and soldiers are here supporting the CJTF-HOA mission of detecting, deterring and defending against transnational terrorism in the East African region.
"In order to continue building on the cohesiveness of forces in the Horn of Africa, a tri-lateral training exercise was held on helicopter operations and weapons familiarization in order to continue the progression of joint training conducted between forces," said Army Master Sgt. Chris Fields, HOA training chief.
Fields said the intent of the exercise was to further the development of joint operations capabilities between the three countries. "We accomplished this task by conducting professional weapons and helicopter orientation classes and a package at Arta and Maryam ranges," he said.
During the familiarization, the weapons fired were the M4/M16 service rifle, M203 Grenade Launcher, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, M240 Golf machine gun, AK-47 assault rifle, P.K.M. light machine gun, and FAMAS F2 multi-mission weapon. Classes were given on each weapon prior to individual firing.
"By firing this wide range of weaponry, the Djiboutian Armed Forces, French Forces and the U.S. Forces have obtained a higher understanding of the proficiency and capabilities of each other's individual weapons systems and an understanding of helicopter operations in Djibouti," Fields said.
When three different countries join together to conduct one training exercise it is a huge event, Fields added. "We were able to exceed the commander's intent - to bring all three countries together in an environment that is conducive for operational enhancements in the Horn of Africa."
"I continually asked what the French and Djiboutians militaries had thought about the training, and they were both very appreciative of the event," he said. "They really praised the professionalism of the American soldiers and Marines."
The French have trained with the American and Djiboutian militaries before in different parts of the world, but never with both forces at the same time, according to French Army Capt. Romain Lallement, tank platoon leader.
"It's good to know foreign procedures, not only with American (and Djiboutian) weapons, but also with the helicopters," said Lallement. "Passing that knowledge onto the French military helps us get to know how Americans train with their own equipment, which is always good while deployed together.
Training with the helicopters included loading and off-loading procedures during the flights to and from the ranges. For this evolution, two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461.
"In other places where U.S. and French forces deploy together, we are not able to switch off weapons and train with them. We now have time for training, Lallement explained. "Our troops enjoy doing this type of training here, they think of it as sharing."
This being their last training exercise in Djibouti, Lallement said his troops have enjoyed the tri-lateral firing exercise and the opportunity to train with the Americans and Djiboutians has made it that much more memorable.
"The professionalism shown by each service was outstanding," said Fields. "It's always important for allied forces to work together. An event like this helps military forces understand the capabilities and limitations of each force, but more importantly, it establishes a better working relationship with the soldiers of different forces."