ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES NATIONAL TRAINING CENTER, Israel --
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted Exercise Noble Shirley 2014, a scheduled bilateral training event, March 4-11, 2014, at various locations in Israel.
“The purpose of the exercise was to enhance interoperability between U.S. and Israeli forces by conducting combined air, land and sea operations, while exchanging some tactics, techniques and procedures in order to improve our methods as a whole,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. J. E. Langlois, 22nd MEU executive officer and overall mission commander for the exercise.
The exercise began as the MEU sent small groups ashore to meet with their IDF counterparts, according to Langlois. The groups sent ashore included military working dogs and handlers, explosive ordnance disposal technicians, mortar teams and forward observers.
“The small group training was excellent,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Zachary Gaines, 22nd MEU military working dog handler and native of Manchester, Ind. “We trained with the IDF military working dog handler teams on their ranges and facilities. They held themselves and their dogs to the same high standard we hold ourselves. I hope we get to train with them again someday.”
As the exercise progressed, the USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) welcomed aboard IDF officials to plan the final stages of the exercise with their U.S. Marine and Navy counterparts.
“The MEU was able to demonstrate and train the Israeli planners in the methods of conducting the Rapid Response Planning Process and show how the relationship works between the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and MEU,” said Langlois. “Many of the Israeli planners were very interested in how the relationship worked and were impressed at how well the [Marines and Navy] integrated and worked together in this process.”
The culminating point of the exercise was an amphibious landing, followed by an assault on an urban operations training facility at the IDF National Training Center, said Langlois. A force of armored vehicles was sent ashore using landing craft, air cushioned, before moving as a convoy to the facility.
“In addition to the [landing force], we also sent in a bilateral aerial assault force comprised of MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and Israeli CH-53D Sea Stallions that joined our vehicle convoy and pushed into the training town,” said Langlois. “The Marines and IDF worked together to clear the town of simulated insurgents that were played by IDF soldiers. It was a very realistic and effective training evolution.”
The use of Ospreys for this exercise marked the first time the aircraft has been flown in Israel. Basing Ospreys aboard the Mesa Verde gave the Marines and IDF more options when planning and conducting the amphibious assault, to include the formation of the bilateral aerial assault force using Marine Ospreys and Israeli Sea Stallions.
“The amphibious assault was an opportunity for the Marines and IDF soldiers to take the bonds they developed in the small group training and expand it to a larger scale,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Kyu-Ha Lim, Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 22nd MEU, executive officer and native of Chapel Hill, N.C. “We got to see everything unfold from the planning process to the execution. We were able to seamlessly utilize each other’s assets and mutually support each other throughout the landing and assault.”
Upon completion of the exercise, the Marines and IDF soldiers conducted physical training together and held a ceremony to mark the end of Noble Shirley 2014.
“This was an incredible training opportunity for the ARG/MEU,” Langlois said. “Both the Israeli forces and MEU would like to build on the foundation laid during this exercise and hope to be able to increase the opportunities to train together in the future.”
Noble Shirley 2014, as with the many other bilateral and multilateral exercises conducted with the IDF, was a routine training exercise and is not associated with or in response to real-world events.
The MEU is deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations.