News: Marine crisis response unit hosts free fall exercise with Spanish paratroopers, Navy EOD in Spain
Story by 1st Lt. Joshua Larson
MORON AIR BASE, Spain – U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response hosted a joint, bilateral military free-fall training exercise in Spain Aug. 12-16, 2013, with Spanish Paratroopers and the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8.
The week-long training, called Exercise Bronze Sword 13.1, consisted of high altitude, low-opening, or HALO, jumps during both day and night and served to enhance relationships and increase military free-fall proficiency and currency for all involved.
“This was very helpful in strengthening relationships with our Spanish hosts, and was especially important because we share similar capabilities with the Spanish unit we jumped with,” said Capt. Nathan Willis, the commanding officer of Bravo Company, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, the ground combat element of SP-MAGTF Crisis Response. “We both train to conduct ground reconnaissance and special insert and extract techniques.”
Because each unit must be able to respond to diverse conditions and remain adaptive, the exercise was especially important. In a garrison environment, Marines must jump once every quarter to maintain qualifications, but are usually able to jump once a month. But parachute operations can be logistically challenging while forward-deployed because of the limited amount of parachutes, equipment and support personnel.
Willis said the Marines would not have been able to conduct the exercise without the support of Marines from II Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Lejeune, N.C., specifically 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, who sent parachutes and several personnel to Spain to ensure a safe and productive exercise for the Americans and Spanish. The sailors from the Navy EOD unit stationed at NAS Rota were instrumental as well, he said.
Everything came together flawlessly during the exercise and the U.S. and Spanish forces conducted military free fall jumps four days out of the week using SP-MAGTF Crisis Response MV-22 Ospreys. All three units were able to jump twice daily without affecting the crisis response unit’s constant alert status.
When asked how the language barrier affected the parachute operations, Willis said it wasn’t much of an issue since the Spanish leaders spoke English well, and added with a smile, “Self-preservation helps increase focus.”
“This exercise is a success story for a host of reasons and demonstrated our depth and agility,” said Col. Scott F. Benedict, commanding officer of SP-MAGTF Crisis Response. “It brought the resources of II MEF together with the Marine Corps’ newest forward-deployed unit to train and exercise on tiltrotor Ospreys, all while operating alongside our enduring partners in the Spanish military.”
The Spanish paratroopers are part of the Brigada de Infantería Ligera Paracaidista, or BRIPAC, and Exercise Bronze Sword 13.1 was the second time they joined with the Marines of SP-MAGTF Crisis Response. The two militaries first teamed up at the end of July for a live-fire sniper shoot at the Principe Training Camp near Madrid.
SP-MAGTF Crisis Response is a self-mobile and self-sustaining force whose mission is to respond across a full range of military operations to protect both U.S. and partner-nation security interests in the region, as well as strengthening partnerships throughout the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility. The unit plans to continue to explore more training opportunities with the Spanish and other partner nations in the region while located in southwestern Europe.
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