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24th MEU (SOC) conducts bilateral training with Kenyan Military

8 Dec 2002 | Cpl. Jeff Sisto 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

In the early morning hours of Nov. 27, Combat Rubber Reconnaissance Crafts were launched from USS Austin (LPD-4), carrying members of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines. These were the first forces ashore for Exercise Edged Mallet 2003.  After securing the beach for an amphibious offload of MEU Service Support Group-24 personnel, vehicles and supplies, Golf Co. pushed out on foot to secure an assembly area.

Golf Co. worked to preserve the MEU's commitment to the exercise by forging ahead with a pre-scheduled cross-training package with a Kenyan infantry unit. 
By assigning missions at the platoon level, Golf Co. was able to contribute both to the overall security for the exercise and to bilateral training events.

While 3rd platoon trained with the Kenyans, 2nd platoon provided security for medical and dental civil affairs projects, and 1st platoon established general security.

"Even at the platoon level, we are accomplishing our goals," said Capt. Ronald Jones, Golf Co. Commander. "We are fine tuning our security techniques on convoy operations and jungle patrols, in addition to learning about Kenyan infantry tactics and weapons systems."

Some of the cross-training events included bilateral patrols, shooting ranges, and helicopter assault drills.

Most of the jungle patrolling was led by the Kenyans, who were well acclimated to the heat and knew the intricacies of jungle terrain and wildlife.

"This was the most scenic country I have ever patrolled in," said Cpl. Robert Linger, a fire team leader from Manassas, Va. "I've seen baboons, hippos, tarantulas, scorpions, and all sorts of birds I would never see patrolling at Camp Lejeune."

On the range, Marines and Kenyan soldiers took turns receiving briefs on and firing each other's weapons. Marines enjoyed comparing the effectiveness of Kenyan weapons to their own

"We got to fire all their weapons," said Private First Class Charles Runnels, a rifleman from St. Louis, Mo. "Their G3 (German Automatic Rifle) is more durable and has more kick, but Marines are known for their marksmanship, so I would stick with the M-16 for its accuracy."

"The Kenyan LMG (Light Machine Gun) is powerful and accurate, but since it is magazine fed it limits the rate of fire a machine gun position can give," said Lance Cpl. Seamus Conner, an M-249 SAW gunner from Tampa Bay, Fla.

But the good thing is that it has a single fire mode which allows you to engage targets and not give away your position with long bursts," added Conner.

Another popular point of comparison was the Kenyan military itself.

"The Kenyans are surprisingly similar to us," said Jones. " Their organization, equipment, rank structure and even their terminology are similar."

"It is good to see how other militaries perform," said Sgt. Christopher Panzica, a fire team leader from Houston, Texas. "One difference was that we decentralize our leadership with squad and fire team leaders. We pride ourselves on small unit leadership and we tried to show them how we do that."

After learning each other's patrolling tactics and weapons systems, the Marines and Kenyans focused on helicopter assault training. Most of the Kenyans had never been in a helicopter before but quickly learned the basics during assault drills.

Training for helicopter assaults helped demonstrate the benefits of the Marines belief in small unit leadership by stressing accountability and safety.
"We showed how a squad leader accounts for his Marines both getting on and off the helicopter," said Sgt. Scott Kates, a squad leader from Wilmington, N.C.  "We demonstrated how to ride in a helicopter with their rifle muzzles down and the tactical measures used to set up a 180 degree defense coming out of the bird,"

All of the training proved to be essential in a culminating bilateral airfield seizure held at the end of the exercise. After the Golf Co. Marines raided a mock air defense site on foot, Kenyan soldiers assaulted the airstrip from CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters and took out a mock communications site.

"They performed well," said Panzica. "They were good marksman, well disciplined, and anxious to learn. I think we learned some things from each other."
"Its good to have that confidence in one another," said Staff Sgt. Melvin Robinson, Platoon Sgt. From Macon, Ga. " You never know, one day we might be fighting side by side."