ANCON, Peru -- Emerging from the sea in waves of boats and armored vehicles, supported by mortars and machine guns, U.S. and Peruvian Marines stormed ashore in an amphibious assault to launch two days of exercises in Punta Salinas, Peru, this week.
Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 24 joined Batallon Infanteria de Marina 1 of the Peruvian Marine Corps in expeditionary operations, projecting power from the Peruvian Landing Ship Transport PAITA to begin the exercise, and conducting coordinated defensive fires to conclude it. The combined training was held in support of Partnership of the Americas 2007, an annual exercise conducted to increase regional security and cooperation among nations of the Western Hemisphere.
“Training with U.S. Marines is very important to us, because we learn new techniques, especially with supporting fires and maneuver,” said Capitan de Fragata (Cdr.) Jose Hernandez, commanding officer, BIM 1. “Our weapons company got to participate with yours, and the results were very strong both in day and night fires.”
Sharing information, resources and logistics, Marines of the two nations closely combined their efforts throughout the exercise. Twenty SPMAGTF 24 Marines trained with the Peruvians in Zodiac boat drills prior to boarding the ship, and spent two nights onboard prior to the assault. The experience was one they say they won’t soon forget.
"The Zodiac was awesome to ride in because of the way they run,” said Sgt. John P. Stedman of Parkville, Mo., a squad leader in Security Detachment, Headquarters Company, 24th Marine Regiment in Kansas City. “I was impressed with that aspect of the training probably more than anything else. The Peruvians were very professional, very proficient and they take it very seriously. You can easily see they have a lot of pride in what they do, and in their country."
Peruvian Marines were integrated into the supporting arms of 24th Marine Regiment as well, and fired 81mm mortar rounds along with the ‘Norteamericanos.’ Their amphibious vehicles joined mounted humvees of the Americans in blasting targets with .50 caliber machine guns, augmented by additional machine guns in fixed positions. For young Marines such as Lance Cpl. Chris J. McFarland of Kansas City, Mo., it was an impressive sight to behold.
"The shoot we did the last night was really cool,” said McFarland, a gunner from Security Detachment, HQ Co., 24th Marines. “Doing that side by side with Peruvians and watching how their weapons work was interesting and a lot of fun. The show from all the night fire, heavy guns with tracers matched with illumination rounds from the mortars, made it just an amazing sight to see."
"This training evolution was my first chance to really see the full potential of our weapons and what we're capable of,” added Cpl. Arthur Corbin of River Grove, Ill., a forward observer with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines in Waukegan, Ill. “I've never seen the way that all of our weapons can come together like I did last night. I also liked how we really clicked with the Peruvians once we got to know some of them. We found we had a lot in common."
The interaction between maneuver units like SPMAGTF 24 and BIM 1 becomes instrumental to success in future combined operations of any nature, as leaders of both units were quick to point out the value of establishing common ground with their counterparts from the other hemisphere.
“This training not only builds professional techniques, but personal ones,” said Hernandez. “For me, it’s important to get to know each other. We belong to different countries and different continents, we don’t speak the same language mostly, so this is very useful because in the future we will likely continue to work together.”
The Marines and sailors of SPMAGTF 24 have been conducting training in and around the Peruvian Marines’ primary base in Ancon since landing here on June 15. Comprised of elements of 24th Marine Regiment and attachments from Marine Forces Reserve and other units, the task force is preparing to conclude training in Ancon while exploring Lima and other parts of Peru, before returning to Kansas City and other home units in July.