Chilean Marines train with II MEF

31 Oct 2006 | Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

Members of the Chilean Marine Corps, or Cuerpo de Infanteria de Marina, are in the midst of a three-week visit to Camp Lejeune to exchange skills and compare notes with Marines from across the II Marine Expeditionary Force.  Ten Chilean Marines from Vina del Mar, Chile, visited the Military Operations in Urban Terrain training facility for a seemingly unusual diplomatic event.

The visit is part of an annual U.S. and Chilean Marine Corps exchange, which aims to bolster relations between the allied countries and exchange tips on the occupation of warfighting.  The 4,000-mile visit is focused on urban combat and entails a healthy dose of sweat, trigger time and long days in the field.

The Chilean Marines linked up with military and police training teams from II MEF Headquarters Group, II MEF, for instruction on Basic Urban Skills and Tactics. 

“The BUST course is designed to teach Marines the skills necessary to conduct combat operations inside a city,” said Cpl. Jason Baer, Division Training Center, 2nd Marine Division.  “They go over the things you might encounter in an urban environment, like ambushes, sniper fire and basic patrols.”

Urban skills are a necessity to the U.S. Marines who are preparing to deploy to Iraq in support of the War on Terrorism.  These same skills are an invaluable asset to the Chilean Marines, who are preparing to conduct peacekeeping operations in Haiti.

Communication is made possible by the military members themselves, who break down the language barrier via language skills and nonverbal communication. Cpl. Martin Jiminez, logistics vehicle system operator for II MHG, helped to bridge the language gap between the Marines of different nationalities.

“It’s a new experience,” said Jiminez, whose Hispanic heritage equipped him with the language skills tailored for the training evolution. “I’m sure it is for them, too. It’s interesting, and it’s something I’ve never done before.”

“Sometimes they say something and I have no idea what they said,” said Jiminez.  “They have a little different dialect, but the main things, I understand them. They do have a lot of experience already, so they kind of know what’s going on.”

The intercultural experience brings to light similarities and differences between Marines of all nations. For example, the Chilean Marine Corps has only two basic occupational fields: infantry and artillery, while their U.S. counterpart hosts support and aviation elements.  Depending on past experiences, some militaries have proficiency in jungle warfare, while others know more about desert climates.  This year’s visitors each have at least 10 years of service in the military, which adds up to high-level, fast-paced training.

Customary with international exchange programs, the purpose of the visit from the Chilean representatives isn’t all about work.

“Intermittent with their training, there’s also a social side,” said Lt. Col. Christian Veeris, U.S. Marine exchange officer to the Chilean Marine Corps, who mentioned this year’s social schedule will include celebration of the U.S. Marine Corps birthday. 

Veeris works as a permanent liaison between the two militaries and emphasized the importance of cross-training allied forces to keep up with world situations.

“Chile is one of our most important partners in South America, and we have very close ties with the Chilean Marine Corps,” he said. “The goal is to work interoperability so we can work together on the battlefield if we ever need to work with another coalition partner.”

Exchange programs and visitations are only a small portion of the year-round relationship maintained between the U.S. and Chilean military, as three Chilean Marines are permanently assigned to the School of Infantry East, Camp Geiger, N.C., and three U.S. Marines are permanently attached to Chilean forces.

“We have a habitual relationship with this country,” said Veeris. “You can tell by the training and personnel exchanges we personally have 365 days of the year.”

From training reinforcement to cultural experiences, coalition Marines don’t lose sight of their primary mission to make the world a better place.