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Cpl. Chris Warren, section commander, Company M, 42 Commando, evaluates the performance of his Royal Marines after they performed a platoon-level exercise Nov. 14 at Range 111. The Royal Marines arrived at the Combat Center Oct. 9 to conduct their annual Black Alligator training which prepares them for combat using a series of combines arms exercises.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Lauren A. Kurkimilis

British Royal Marines run Operation Black Alligator

23 Nov 2012 | Lance Cpl. Lauren A. Kurkimilis

Royal Marines with 42 Commando have traveled across the globe from their home at Bickleigh Barracks in Plymouth, Devon, U.K. to train at the Combat Center. They are here for an annual training exercise called Black Alligator 12.

“Black Alligator is a battalion-level exercise involving 42 Commando, Royal Marines,” said Capt. Ismael Lara, Exercise Integration Officer, G-3. “They come all the way here from the U.K. and they are self-sustained. The biggest part that makes this unique, compared to any other foreign exercises, is that there is usually a Marine presence out there with the foreign military. In this case, they are out there on their own and completely self-sufficient.”

There are more than 600 Royal Marines participating in Black Alligator. They put boots on the ground Oct. 9 and will continue an array of training scenarios until Dec. 3.

“They come here for a series of training exercises,” said Lt. Col. Aaron F. Potter, G-3 operations officer. “They do company-sized attacks, combined arms training, live fire exercises with heavy machine guns and mortars and they train on our MOUT facilities. They do just about everything needed to make them combat ready.”

The Combat Center offers the British Royal Marines the chance to train in a desert environment.

“This is the only place in the world where you can do what we do and that's why they come here,” Potter said. “We combine live-fire training with maneuver. We have the ranges to do it and we do it safely.”

The Combat Center is made up of more than 935 square miles and is more than six times larger than the largest training area in the United Kingdom, the Defense Training Estate on the Salisbury Plain.

“The size of the area is significantly larger than what's available in the U.K. and the terrain is more challenging and much more varied,” said Capt Mark Sandey, Company M Second in Command, 42 Commando. “It's certainly more difficult than what we're used to and it actually resembles some of the places that we are more likely to deploy to in the future.” 

The troops of 42 Commando have also been able to utilize many of the military operations on urban terrain ranges available here at the Combat Center

“There are a lot more urban facilities here,” Sandey said. “Range 220, the big town up on the hill, is vast compared to what we have. We get the opportunities for larger formations to exercise and the greater realism of being able to immerse yourself in that environment as opposed to have just eight or 10 stand-alone buildings which is closer to what we have in the U.K.”

The most important value taken away from Black Alligator is the realism the Royal Marines experience  and the accurate representation of what they might face when deployed, said Sandey.

“I've never been to the States before, and to be on such a huge range, where you can do so much in this massive space, is definitely a new experience,” said Marine Felix Melligan, General GT's Marine, Company M, 42 Commando. “There are so many aspects of the FSG, fire support group and now out here they've been able to do their (training) which they don't really get to do too much back in the U.K.”

The Royal Marines are training in combined arms exercises from a fireteam-level all the way up to battalion-level which is new training for most.

“None of us, aside from the lads that have gone on tour, have really done that level of attack before,” said Melligan. “We've been working from two-men then four-men to eight-men and we've been building up gradually. I think we're are really prepared and I'm looking forward to it.”

The Marines of the Combat Center have been supportive and efficiently accommodating towards the Royal Marines of 42 Commando said Sandey. It is important that they  continue to develop and maintain the already strong alliance between the two militaries.

“They are our counterpart,” said Potter. “They've had a great influence on us and our traditions as a Marine Corps. They are a great ally and we've enjoyed a long, mutually beneficial relationship with them. We don't just have a shared language, we have shared traditions, customs and ethos and a shared commitment to doing things the right way.”


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