Tactical

Why Marines wanted to practice amphibious warfare in Djibouti

(USMC photo by Cpl. Jered Stone)

Recently, Marines and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit based on the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) began a major exercise in Djibouti known as Alligator Dagger. Unfortunately, it was quickly cancelled after a pair of crashes.

If you're like a lot of people, you may be wondering, "why bother having the exercise in Djibouti, of all places?" Well, believe it or not, there are some very good reasons.


U.S. Marines assigned to the Maritime Raid Force (MRF), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), offload gear from an MV-22B Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th MEU, in Arta Range, Djibouti

(USMC photo by Cpl. Jered Stone)

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is currently deployed to the Central Command (CENTCOM) area of operations. These Marines are, in essence, a floating reserve for the current commander of CENTCOM, General Joseph L. Votel. But, as is the case with all Marines, it's important to keep readiness high. To do so, you need practice.

A U.S. Marine MV-22B Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepares to land on the flight deck of USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) during Alligator Dagger,

(USMC photo by Cpl. Jered Stone)

In a release, the Marines stated they planned to conduct "amphibious training; live-fire; visit, board, search, and seizure; tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel as well as air assault evolutions." Tanks, artillery, and mortar crews would also get a chance to practice during the two weeks of training at the Arta Range Complex in Djibouti.

U.S. Marines assigned to the Maritime Raid Force (MRF), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), ride in an MV-22B Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th MEU during Alligator Dagger

(USMC photo by Cpl. Jered Stone)

All of this training needs to happen somewhere, and Djibouti was a very good place for it. Given that it's in the Horn of Africa, it's not exactly high on the list of places people want to visit. This means it provides a place for the Marines to practice their signature operations in an austere, potentially realistic setting.

A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is parked in Arta Range, Djibouti, during Alligator Dagger

(USMC photo by Cpl. Jered Stone)

In the real world, when Marines deploy, it's not always going to be staged from a place like Kuwait, where a lot of modern conveniences are readily available. Similarly, training in the United States doesn't prepare you for when you need a CH-53 to deliver fuel for your Humvees.

U.S. Marines assigned to the Maritime Raid Force (MRF), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), board an MV-22B Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th MEU, on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7).

(USMC photo by Cpl, Jered Stone)

That is why the Marines wanted to train in Djibouti for two weeks. Losing this opportunity will sting pretty badly, but after those two crashes, the Marines had no choice but to stand down.