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Side by side: International brothers: Combat Center Marines train with foreign allies

21 Nov 2011 | Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

Since Marines under the command of 1st Lt. Presley N. O’Bannon fought with foreign militaries on the shores of Tripoli during the Battle of Derne, Marines have fought alongside and trained with foreign militaries.

During the “Great War,” or WWI, the Marines fought alongside our French and British allies and made their presence known even when they were misidentified. The Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the American Expeditionary Force, under date of Aug.16, 1918, published one of the more memorable moments from a French officer.

“A wounded officer from among the gallant French lancers had just been carried into a Yankee field hospital to have his dressing changed. He was full of compliments and curiosity about the dashing contingent that fought at his regiment’s left.”

The Marines continued to fight alongside our allies in major wars in Vietnam, Korea, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

But fighting with our allies can be difficult when the two forces of ground troops might not even speak the same language. That is where cross training comes into play.

“When you go to other countries, you are going to be working with other guys anyways and having a general idea of what they are going to be like, will make it easier to work with them,” said Cpl. Mitchell Harwood, with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. “They train you up on some of their training procedures and our training procedures. Everyone mixes together and it makes one great team.”

“I love to do a little crosstraining,” said British Royal Marine Sgt. Cameron Smith, mountain leader with the reconnaissance troop in the 40 Commandos, British Royal Marines. “You get other ideas off of people of how to do things. It’s obvious everyone thinks they are doing things right. But you might see an American unit do something and think, Hang on. That is better than what we do, and integrate that or vice versa.”

“It is eye opening. You guys do things a fare bit differently than us but at the same breath there are things that are pretty similar to how we operate,” said Australian Army Sgt. James Wilson, a gunner with 8/12. “But so far it has been a good experience to learn and observe how the Marine Corps operates.”

When a group is thrown together and work together in tough situations, bonds are formed that will last for years to come.

“It’s been a great experience. They are a great bunch of guys, hard workers and we had a great time with them,” Harwood said. “We have all made friends out here, and we will definitely be keeping in contact with them after this is over.”

Several commanders looked back to their own experiences training with other nations. Their relationships showed younger service members how strong the friendships they make here can grow.

“I am still in contact with friends I made in the U.S. Marines 17 years ago and am finding out how small the military really is,” said British Royal Marine Maj. Chris Hall, Co. C, 40 Commando commanding officer.

Hall also said how the strong ties between the United States Marine Corps and close allies will only remain strong as long as they continue to perform joint exercises and foster these kind of bonds wherever they go.

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