SIERRA DEL RETÍN, Spain --
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) completed the first theater security cooperation exercise of its eight-month deployment Feb. 26, 2014, by training with Spanish and Portuguese marines in Sierra del Retín, Spain.
Spanish Amphibious Bilateral Exercise (PHIBLEX) 2014 included more than 300 U.S. Marines and approximately 200 Spanish marines and 200 Portuguese marines training together to learn from each other’s experience and techniques, as well as build lasting professional relationships.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to train with you, to share our protocols and learn from you and your incredible experience and knowledge,” said Col. Jorge Ivars, commanding officer of Spain’s Tercio del Sur.
“We are the world’s oldest marine corps, but you are the most powerful,” said Sgt. Francisco Vera Gutierrez, Tercio del Sur military policeman. “It’s an amazing experience for those two to come together like this.”
The MEU began the weeklong exercise with law enforcement cross training between Spanish and U.S. Marine Corps military police, who secured the beach of the Sierra del Retín training range for the MEU’s amphibious assault. With landing craft from the USS Bataan (LHD 5), U.S. Marines and Sailors landed on the beach and immediately proceeded to separate training areas to conduct various missions with their Portuguese and Spanish partners.
“The exercise was an opportunity to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures with the Portuguese and Spanish marines,” said Capt. Dan Grainger, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 22nd MEU, Bravo Company commander and native of North Andover, Mass. “The way we did that was we fully integrated them at the rifle platoon and squad levels for patrolling and fast roping. The battalion also trained with them in mortar firing, motorized operations and scout sniper operations.”
Combining assets from all elements of the MEU and several from the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), the Marines successfully completed the large-scale exercise with their European counterparts.
“The largest benefits were getting to know some of our allied partners and getting to experience and learn their capabilities in preparation for possible future coalition operations,” said Grainger.
Both sides expressed the desire to work or train with the other in the future, signifying the strengthening of international relationships between the services.
“The biggest takeaway was that Marines are kind of the same all around the world and that after this exercise, I look forward to working with them in any kind of environment,” Grainger concluded.
“We are happy with how the exercise went. It is a great pleasure and experience for us,” said Ivars. “We would also like to thank Col. Dunn and the 22nd MEU for the chance to integrate the U.S. and Spanish Marines.”
The MEU is deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility with the Bataan ARG as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations.