VOLOS, Greece --
Marines and sailors from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit recently completed nearly two weeks of training June 3-13, 2009, in areas near Volos, Greece.
The Marines and sailors conducted a variety of training throughout the region including weapons and demolition training, terrain and low-altitude flight training, and defensive air-combat training.
Much of the training was conducted with counterparts from the Hellenic Armed Forces.
“We got out and knocked the rust off physically, mentally and also with our core skills at the small unit level throughout every company and the battery,” said Lt. Col. Robert C. Fulford, commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd MEU. “The training also strengthened our partnership and friendship with the Hellenic Marines.”
Greek Marines from the 32nd Brigade of Marines and U.S. Marines from BLT 3/2 and Combat Logistics Battalion 22 conducted bi-lateral training like rappelling, patrolling, vehicle checkpoint operations, parachute operations, and mass-casualty training.
“It was a chance for us to see new things and enrich our knowledge,” said Greek Marine 2nd. Lt. Nikos Stamatiou, a platoon leader for the 32nd Brigade of Greek Marines. “The knowledge we will take will be very useful.”
22nd MEU Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoon scout team leader Cpl. Micah Cox was glad his Marines had the opportunity to interact with the Hellenic Marines.
“Most of these guys have never worked with any foreign military,” said North Fort Myers, Fla., native Cox. “As soon as we got past the language barrier, we meshed together pretty well.”
The two groups of grunts shared everything from food to field covers during breaks in the action.
“We got to take a time-out from the training and got to just talk to them one-on-one and see the different culture,” said Cox.
The BLT 3/2 Marines instructed the Greek Marines on patrolling and setting up vehicle checkpoints. Cox said that the Greek Marines took to the training with interest and vigor.
“They seemed pretty in to it,” Cox said. “They were real open to the idea of learning new things.”
Cox added the training was a learning experience for the U.S. Marines as well.
Though the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based Marines are used to the flat marshlands of the Southeast U.S., the Greek training area was more akin to the rugged, mountainous terrain in the northern areas of the Marine Corps’ West Coast base, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
“Going up and down those hills with a full combat load definitely lets your body know that it’s something different than the flat grounds of Camp Lejeune,” said Cox. “It’s great training for the body and mind.”
While the grunts were hiking the hills with the Hellenic Marines, Marines from the MEU’s Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced), conducted a pilot exchange where MEU pilots were able to fly Greek aircraft and Greek Pilots flew U.S. aircraft.
Two AH-1W Super Cobra pilots from the MEU, Capt. Larry L. Buzzard, a native of Willits, Calif., and Capt. Christopher J. Myette, a native of Carver, Mass., were able to fly the Greek AH-64A Apache Attack helicopter. Two Greek Army pilots were able to fly one of the MEU’s AH-1W Super Cobras.
“This was an important training event because it not only allowed us to experience training in a different platform, but it allowed us to build camaraderie with warriors from an allied nation,” said aviator Buzzard. “It was a great experience.”
Myette found the flight in the Apache akin to the Cobra.
“The flight controls are slightly different, but most of the sensors and weapon systems are extremely similar – the most noticeable difference was that it had much more room,” said Myette. “I was very impressed with the Greek Army pilots’ ability to fly, their hospitality and their professionalism as a military fighting force.”
Fulford, who conducted an exercise with the Hellenic Marines in 2001, noticed an immediate sense of acceptance from the Greek forces.
“I felt like I was moving back into a neighborhood after eight years away,” said Fulford. “The Greeks are our friends, they are our strategic partners and they have been for decades – I think we share some common core values and we have a lot to learn from each other, both as people and as militaries.”
The 22nd MEU deployed May 15, 2009, aboard the ships of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group. The unit has since made the transatlantic voyage into the Mediterranean Sea. Currently, the unit is serving as the theater reserve force for U.S. European Command.
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit is a scalable, multi-purpose force of more than 2,200 Marines and sailors. Led by Col. Gareth F. Brandl, the 22nd MEU is composed of its Ground Combat Element, BLT 3/2; Aviation Combat Element, VMM-263 (Rein); Logistics Combat Element, CLB-22; and its Command Element.