ODESSA, Ukraine -- After departing Amphibious Warfare School (AWS) in Quantico, Va., who would have guessed that four friends would meet up again amidst a multi-national cross-training event in Odessa, Ukraine?
Capt. Dan Hicks, Golf Company Commander, BLT 2/6, from Big Cane, La., and Capt. Larry Huggins, 24th MEU (SOC) Assistant Operations Officer, from Hickory, N.C., would have never guessed that they would be reunited with their Ukrainian friend, and classmate, 1stLt. Oleksii Mykolaichuk, Ukrainian Navy Amphibious Platoon Commander, during Cooperative Partner 2000 (CP00).
The fourth member of this group of friends is LtCol Karl Elebash, 24th MEU (SOC) Executive Officer and Commander, CTF-904 for CP00. He was on the staff at AWS while Hicks, Huggins and Mykolaichuk were students.
"Being on the staff at AWS, I fully expected to meet and work with some of the students like Capt. Huggins and Capt. Hicks in the fleet, but to actually work with one of the foreign nationals like [Mykolaichuk] seemed unlikely," said Elebash. "We were fortunate that Oleksii was here to assist in translating and coordinating training. Also, it was nice to see a familiar face so far from home. It just goes to show you - it's a small world."
None knew where their careers would take them, or whether they would ever be a part of a multi-national exercise like CP00, but when Hicks found out there was a Ukrainian unit participating in the exercise, he started asking around.
"I don't quite remember how we became friends during school, but I made a point to get email addresses of all the international students," said Hicks. "When we got out here, I asked around to see if anyone knew [Mykolaichuk] and it turned out that he was here."
Mykolaichuk was equally surprised to meet up with his old classmates.
"One of my platoon sergeants told me that there was a U.S. Marine looking for me," said Mykolaichuk. "I thought it was just [Capt. Hicks], but when I found out that [Capt. Huggins] and [LtCol. Elebash] was here too, it felt like a class reunion."
"It's really nice to be able to work with friends during a large multi-national event such as this," said Mykolaichuk. "Especially when it has to do with keeping peace and helping countries in need."
"You never think that when you graduate, you'll run into any of your classmates, let alone the international ones," said Huggins. "This just makes the friendship that much more important, because now we've actually worked together."
Follow the 24th MEU (SOC) deployment on their website at www.usmc.mil/24meu.