42 Commando enjoy a few days' training with US counterparts

US Marines invited their Royal Marine counterparts to join them for a few days as their assault ship made its way into European waters to begin a deployment with the USS Wasp battle group.

The USS Whidbey Island is an assault ship – a slightly smaller version of Britain’s Albion and Bulwark which uses hovercraft rather than landing craft to put up to 500 troops ashore.

The men of 42 Commando are in the early stages of a 12-month training regime which will see them taking over as the UK’s Lead Commando Group. 

There’s a good chance the lead group would be working alongside the Semper Fi folk in the event of a world crisis, so Juliet Company jumped at the chance of a few days of combined training. 

Once aboard the Whidbey Island, the Bickleigh boys tried their hand at the Americans’ martial arts training, observed amphibious assault vehicles in action, shot the M4 carbine – the US equivalent of the SA80 – and M27 service rifles – counterpart of the Royal Marines’ L129A1– observed US bomb disposal technicians at work and learned about the USMC’s 120mm mortar (the heaviest mortar the commandos fire is the 81mm).

Any time we are with our counterparts from the US, they are always taking time out of their day to make an effort for us

L/Cpl Oliver Cleland, Juliet Company 42 Commando Royal Marines

“I think doing things like this increases our ability to work with each other,” said 1Lt Kyle Jackson, a rifle platoon commander with Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. “Getting to meet and understand the Royal Marines allows us to develop a better relationship with them.”

Sgt David Cuevas, an artillery section chief with 2nd Platoon Mortars, added: “We went into detail on the nomenclature and characteristics of our weapon system, allowing the Royal Marines the opportunity to get hands-on experience and a chance to learn”

The four days aboard the Whidbey Island were a short, but very worthwhile experience for Juliet.

“They made us feel welcome, right from the very start,” said L/Cpl Oliver Cleland. “Any time we are with our counterparts from the US, they are always taking time out of their day to make an effort for us.”

Before returning to their base near Plymouth, the Brits were treated to some US Navy/USMC hospitality:  a steel beach picnic: Marines. Games. Picnic. Steel beach. (It bears an uncanny resemblance to a flight deck barbecue in the RN...)

“Everyone from Juliet Company enjoyed the steel beach event,” said L/Cpl Alex Johns. “It was a good atmosphere – and it was also a good way to get away from a normal working environment.”

Pictures by Cpl. Chris Garcia/USMC