Marines return to Albania for Ex Dragon Hammer

Plymouth-based Royal Marines have returned to Albania for a further week’s workout with the country’s Armed Forces as part of Cougar 13.

Hot on the heels of last month’s large-scale Albanian Lion exercise – the first set-piece for the UK’s Response Force Task Group on Cougar 13 – elements of 42 Commando Royal Marines have returned to the Balkan country for a further week.

The Bickleigh-based Royal Marines are the nation’s on-call commando unit, ready to deploy anywhere in the world at short notice should the government determine their presence is required.

The week-long Exercise Dragon Hammer with the Vikings of the Royal Marines’ Armoured Support Group saw the green berets train mainly around the bay of Vlorë – also the setting for Albanian Lion.

Lima Company used night-vision technology to practise moving through an underground tunnel complex at Porto Palermo, near Himarë, which once served as a base for Cold War submarine operations in the Adriatic.

Dragon Hammer was an excellent opportunity – and one that the Commando fully exploited. Arduous, complex terrain and a challenging environment provided some fantastic training opportunities.

Lt Col Neil Sutherland

Their week of Dragon Hammer concluded with a company-level attack on the small island fortress of Sazan, just off the Vlorë peninsula – and also the focal point for an assault during Albanian Lion.

Meanwhile, Juliet Company carried out various exercises with live ammunition – including the chance to fire the new lightweight Glock pistols being introduced across the Armed Forces – and close quarters battle through buildings.

Their week drew to a close getting to grips working side-by-side with the Vikings.

The Vikings deployed on Cougar hoping to show the rest of the Corps what the all-terrain armoured vehicle, which is based in Dorset, can offer on the battlefield.

“The story of close co-operation between Juliet Company and the Viking Troop is one that needs to be read throughout our Corps,” said Major Chris Samuel, Officer Commanding Juliet Company.

“Put simply, during this exercise, my commanders at all levels were exploiting the Viking’s capabilities in ways that they would not have envisaged or thought possible even three months ago.”

The green berets completed Dragon Hammer delighted at the unique training environment offered both by Albania’s landscape and its military facilities.

Lt Col Neil Sutherland, 42 Cdo’s Commanding Officer, said: “Dragon Hammer was an excellent opportunity – and one that the Commando fully exploited. Arduous, complex terrain and a challenging environment provided some fantastic training opportunities.

“Live firing with Viking fully integrated into one of my manoeuvre companies and close quarter battle in a complex sub-terrain cold war submarine facility where we fully utilised black light, are but two examples of the excellent training we were able to run.

"Overall, it proved to be superb training for 42 Commando.”

Cougar 13 is the routine annual deployment of the Royal Navy's very high readiness Response Force Task Group.

Elements of the RFTG deployed to the Mediterranean and East of Suez, demonstrating the ability to project a highly effective UK maritime component anywhere in the world.

The deployment includes a series of demanding exercises with partner nations throughout the region, which will ensure that the Task Group is ready to respond to any contingencies should UK Ministers direct us to do so.

The RFTG ships have now passed through the Suez Canal and are carrying out further exercises with partner nations.