GULF OF ADEN – Sailors and Marines from the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 166 (Reinforced) welcomed distinguished visitors from the French Armed Forces aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), Oct. 22.
Col. Christopher Taylor, 13th MEU commander, and Capt. Malcolm Potts, commander of Amphibious Squadron 1 and Boxer ARG, welcomed Col. Julien Sabéné, French Air Force commander of Djibouti Air Base 188, and a cadre of French Mirage F1 pilots.
The visit allowed for an exchange of tactics, capabilities, and procedures as more than 700 Marines with the13th MEU gear up for a mid-deployment sustainment training event in Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
Lemonnier is an expeditionary base that provides vital support for counter-terrorism and counter piracy missions, as well as interagency operations that take place in concert with diplomatic activity.
According to Sabéné, Camp Lemonnier also provides great air space.
“We look forward to conducting modern theater operations side-by-side with our counterparts,” Sabéné said.
Lt. Col. Kevin Duffy, commanding officer of VMM-166 (Rein), said the highlight of training for the aviation combat element will be the integration of fixed wing AV-8B Harriers with French Mirage F1 strike aircraft to demonstrate the vital structure of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force in a forward deployed environment.
“I believe we will be able to learn a lot from each other,” Duffy said. “This is their backyard, so how they operate over here will help build our proficiency.”
Djibouti sustainment training will also allow VMM-166 (Rein) to showcase its new long-range ship-to-shore capability as the first West Coast MEU to deploy with the MV-22 Osprey aircraft.
The 13th MEU is deployed with the Boxer ARG as a theater reserve and crisis response force throughout the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.