News: The 26th MEU prepares for Eager Lion
Story by Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels
AQABA, Jordan – Marines and sailors assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and sailors assigned to the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, are participating in bilateral and multilateral training evolutions in various parts of Jordan during exercise Eager Lion, June 9 to June 20, 2013.
“As with all theater security cooperation exercises, the focus for all training is bilateral and multilateral training,” said Col. Matthew G. St. Clair, 26th MEU commanding officer and a native of Jarrettsville, Md. “There is a rather large exercise force from the Jordanian Armed Forces that will be participating in the exercise. The [Marine Air-Ground Task Force] will have the 77th Jordanian Infantry Battalion that is under the tactical control of the MEU. We have also received tactical control from 4/2 Commando who are British Royal Marines.”
The United Kingdom and Jordanian armed forces will be working side-by-side with the U.S. Forces to enhance ties developed between the three countries.
“Bilateral training allows us to expand our partnership capacity with the Jordanians,” said St. Clair. “The Marine Corps has a very long and a very healthy relationship with the Jordanian Armed Forces. The Marine Corps has been training Jordanian infantry battalions that will be eventually deploying to Afghanistan. We have been doing that for several years. It is a very powerful relationship between Jordanian and U.S. [military], so this will further develop our relationships.”
While actively participating in the multitude of ranges and urban operations planned for the exercise, the Marines and sailors of the 26th MEU will also be conducting sustainment training.
“Sustainment training is important. Sustainment training, while ashore, is extremely important,” said St. Clair. “While embarked on ship the opportunities to train are very limited. We are limited in the live-fires that we can execute and we certainly can’t pull our vehicles out to practice convoy operations. The longer we stay on ship… [the longer we are away from perfecting our skills]. The opportunity to conduct training ashore allows us to focus and sharpen our skills on the 12 mission essential tasks we have to be able to execute as a crisis response force in theater.”
While planning an exercise of this magnitude, especially in a country that is mostly unfamiliar to many of the Marines and sailors, many considerations must be taken into account. The safety of the troops involved is always the number one priority.
“We began planning for this exercise before we even composited as a MEU,” said St. Clair. “The MAGTF will be split up among three different sites. We had to make sure to take [medical evacuations] into consideration and make sure we had plans on how to get the Marines from the northern most training area down to the southern training area where we will have all of our medical stations set up. In the south we have our Expeditionary Resuscitative Surgical System which provides a level two medical capability ashore. If we have severe injury on a live-fire range, in less than 30 minutes, we will be able to get that casualty to the ERSS [quickly] to stabilize the patient.”
As always, at the end of the day, every exercise is about furthering confidence in skills and understanding lessons learned.
The commanding officer said by having our Marines train with foreign nations gives them a chance to better understand foreign cultures. He said most Marines will walk away with the knowledge that there are a lot of similarities between different militaries; ranging from big things like tactical techniques and procedures, to little things like maintaining proper uniform appearance and standing different posts. He said he hopes they learn the similarities between different militaries and they gain confidence in working with foreign counterparts if ever put into that position in future operations.
Exercise Eager Lion 2013 is an annual, multinational exercise designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships and enhance security and stability in the region by responding to modern-day security scenarios.