ABOARD USS KEARSARGE, At Sea --
Nine coalition partners joined the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps team for Exercise Bold Alligator 2012 sharing military experience from around the world.
Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom all participated or provided observers for the exercise.
Aboard the USS Kearsarge, a company of the Canadian Army and a company of Royal Marines each took an active part in the training. Training included martial arts, weapons familiarization training and participation in the beach assault. U.S. Marines have recently fought side-by-side with these allies in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. This exercise still proved useful to prepare all coalition forces for their next opportunity to operate together and proved that they could work from a sea-based environment.
“I think it’s fair to say that the more familiarity you have working in a coalition setting with other partners in an exercise framework, the easier it becomes to then transition to real operations because we understand each other’s cultures and decision making processes at the operational level and tactical levels,” said Royal Marine Maj. Chris Samuel, commanding officer of J Company, 42 Commando, Royal Marines. “We become interoperable in terms of understanding each other’s equipment, capabilities, and each other’s tactics, techniques and procedures.”
The coordination between the different key players of the scenario was the most difficult, explained Canadian Sgt. Maj. Eric Proulx of C Company, 3rd Royal, 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Army. The Canadian Army trains at the battalion level during its largest exercises, but training with larger forces in a partnered exercise showed Proulx the complexity of moving a larger numbers of troops and working with a variety of military services and countries.
“For me, that’s a good learning experience,” Proulx added.
Proulx stated that C Company specializes in the Canadian brand of amphibious warfare, which encompasses going from one body of land across a small body of water in assault boats, landing and continuing on to the objective. According to him, most of the Canadian forces have never been aboard a ship larger than their assault boats. The new experience was both fun and practical.
“It’s definitely a great exercise because we both don’t know each other’s capabilities and it’s a fun time to experience those different things where you’re expanding your horizons,” said Canadian Lt. Mathieu M. Groulx, an infantry platoon commander with the company. “You’ve got an unknown world everywhere, so if you work more closely together then it would be easier when we get to a real mission; we would work more effectively together.”
Integration of the multiple forces had a major impact on the big picture of the Bold Alligator scenario, just like it does in real operations.
“The ability to give missions in a battle space to coalition folks is huge and critical,” said Lt. Col. Scott A. Cooper, the senior watch officer for Marine Aircraft Group 29, the air combat element. “One of the main efforts in this landing was the French who had to take a beach toward Wilmington, and they were the first ones to go. Look at Afghanistan, a Georgian battalion has a really key battle space in the Helmand province and they’re doing great work. Everybody’s got expertise and they all have great capabilities.”
As the exercise came to an end each country and service walked away with many lessons learned from not only conducting amphibious operations but doing so with coalition partners that they have worked with in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as partners they could likely work with in the future.