SINGO, UGANDA --
A small team of Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit were sent on a unique mission in the east-central African country of Uganda.
Eleven Marines traveled from the amphibious assault ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group to Uganda to link up with a team of Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force who were already there conducting a training package for soldiers of the Uganda People’s Defense Force.
The Marines are helping the UPDF perfect their skills in marksmanship, small unit tactics and engineering prior to the Ugandan soldiers deploying in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia.
For the Marines and their Ugandan partners this opportunity has provided a variety of challenges and rewards.
In their own words, here is how members from both militaries feel about their interaction:
Cpl. Robert W. Winegar, of Littleton, Colo., and mortarman with the 81mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th MEU – “My experience in Uganda has been great so far. I never imagined that I would be in Africa training the UPDF. I really enjoy being exposed to the new culture and experiences. I like the training and the challenge of working with the Marines from the SPMAGTF and a foreign military. So far, I have been employed as a combat instructor overseeing the basic combat skills that are being taught to the UPDF troops. When the UPDF soldiers are split into their prospective job specialties, I will be a 60mm mortars instructor.”
Cpl. Matteo Marshall, of Maui, Hawaii, and machine gunner from the Combined Anti-Armor Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment –
“So far my experience in Uganda has been extremely positive. We have a variety of things scheduled to teach and train the UPDF soldiers, but at the same time, we can also learn from them. US forces have been employed mostly in desert environments in recent years. Our current generation of troops lacks knowledge and training when it comes to jungle warfare. This is something we can improve on while working with the UPDF by learning from their experiences. I would have never expected to take part in? this mission while on the 24th MEU. It was, and has been, a pleasant surprise. I like being apart of this team and mission. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be serving my country in such an important mission and I find the task of teaching and training the UPDF very rewarding. When the UPDF soldiers are split into their prospective job specialties, I will be a medium machine gun instructor (PKM).”
Lance Cpl. Trey A. Romero, of Hebron, Ky., and combat engineer assigned to the engineer platoon for Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th MEU - “My experience has been just that, an experience. I’ve seen and learned many new things, and above all else, I am enjoying myself. I never thought I would be in Africa while deployed with a MEU, let alone in Uganda training the UPDF in my specialty of engineering and demolitions. I like training with the UPDF and think the training is good. So far I have taught and learned a lot from the UPDF. The impact of having a few engineers on this training team has proven to be beneficial. The UPDF soldiers have shown great improvements in multiple facets of combat engineering, which will surely prove to be invaluable in their follow-on missions supporting AMISOM. When the UPDF soldiers are split into their prospective job specialties, I will be a combat engineer instructor teaching survivability, basic and advanced demolitions, military urban breaching and mine detectors.”
The Ugandan soldiers also had positive things to say about the training.
Pvt. Kenneth Edep, a combat engineer with the UPDF – “I think that the training is going to provide us with a lot of experience. This is our first time using and wearing the flak and Kevlar (referring to the protective vest and helmets) during our training. The classes we are getting are very useful. The UPDF is used to fighting in the jungle and now we are moving to more built-up (urban) areas. The training that we are receiving is giving us experience for when we are going in for an attack in an urban environment. This type of training is something that our enemies may not have and it will help us defeat them. I am happy to be in this course. I wish that all of our soldiers could participate in this training and experience. I feel good working with the Marines. They have taught us a lot of great things. The most important things I think we have learned so far are First Aid and the weapon safety rules. They are the most important to me because they will save our lives.”
Staff Sgt. Alex Agupio, a combat engineer with the UPDF – “I have learned a lot in this training. Many of the things that we are being taught are new and have not been covered in our previous training evolutions. I like that I have the advantage of getting this new training. The new techniques in urban training are an advantage because we have not been previously trained in that. We need to be trained in urban areas because we are not used to fighting in that type of area. I feel that working with the Marines is good because they are teaching us new techniques that will make us better when we fight.”
The team from the 24th MEU arrived in Uganda in July and is planned to continue training Ugandan soldiers through September.
Training with foreign militaries is a standard practice for Marines deployed on a MEU. The 24th MEU has participated in training exercises with Moroccan, Spanish, Jordanian, Italian, French and Lebanese forces since deploying in March.
The 24th MEU is a 2,300-strong Marine Air Ground Task Force currently deployed with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and is serving as a theater reserve and crisis response force for U.S. Central Command and 5th Fleet areas of responsibility.