DJIBOUTI, Africa --
After spending several weeks cramped on ships transiting the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Suez Canal, and Red Sea, Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit were anxious to get on dry land and start training to refresh their warfighting skills they worked on so hard to develop prior to deploying.
The 24th MEU is planned to conduct a series of training exercises here throughout the month of March to maintain proficiency in these warfighting skills to stay prepared as a deployed force in readiness.
As the theater reserve for Central Command they could be called on to perform the full spectrum of military operations at a moment’s notice.
“On ship, the Marines are limited to classroom type training. The limited amount of space and resources available on the ship hinders them from actually doing what they are learning about in the classroom,” said 1st Sgt. William C. Barnes, company first sergeant, Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th MEU. “What works in a classroom may not end up working when they perform on the ground.”
The Marines began flowing into the country March 1, and will continue sending a rotation of their units currently embarked on ships of the Nassau Amphibious Ready Group about every two weeks to conduct a series of live-fire weapons ranges, desert survival training, and civil affairs projects.
The movement from ship to shore is a training opportunity in itself for some of the Marines.
“Coming to Djibouti gives the entire MEU a chance to practice amphibious landings and it gives us a chance to become more proficient moving equipment on and off the ship,” said Gunnery Sgt. Tony L. Moore, operations chief, Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th MEU. “Conducting this training here allows us to utilize resources such as landing support to determine safe landing locations, whereas back (stateside) everything was pretty much from memory.”
Another unforeseen training opportunity was just setting up to be able to conduct the planned training schedule. Once on land the Marines were assigned a plot of land in a pre-designated training area, comprised of hard dirt and rocks, miles from any town or village.
After two days of continuous work and with help from the locals they are now working out of a fully operational base camp.
“We don’t get to set up FOB’s (Forward Operating Bases) as much as we should. Getting out here and actually putting up the tents, getting everything running and getting a chance to work with foreign nationals helps us become more proficient at our job,” said Moore, a New Bern, N.C. native.
Some of the upcoming training events may not be new to the Marines, but for most, the circumstances and terrain definitely are.
This exercise gives the Marines a chance to operate in a deployed environment and in a country most have never been before. They learn to cope with different terrain and climates without the comfort of their homes only minutes away.
They also get the life experience of being in a new country, and learning about other cultures.
“It’s an irreplaceable experience for these young Marines and officers as they develop their knowledge of the world. Operating in this kind of environment gives them that,” said Maj. Jonathan B. Hamilton, operations officer, BLT 1/9, 24th MEU.
For more information or for imagery and video of the 24th MEU, visit the unit's websites at - http://www.marines.mil/unit/24thmeu