MARINE AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Marines with Company A, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division supported Royal Marines with 42 Commando Group during Exercise Black Alligator 2015 aboard Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Sept. 30 - Oct. 1, 2015.
Exercise Black Alligator is an annual exercise which brings the Marine Corps and British Royal Marines together to conduct a variety of training evolutions as one fighting force. The exercise provides unique opportunities for both military forces to conduct training under circumstances they are unaccustomed to and ultimately tests their ability to effectively work with each other to strengthening the bond between the partnered nations.
During the final phase of the exercise, the Commando Group assaulted numerous objectives with fire and maneuver, utilizing 3rd Amphibian Assault Battalion as their means of transportation to the objective and employing 1st Tanks Bn. as the main source of fire support. 1st Tanks provided the Royal Marines with a flexible secondary fighting force as well.
“Our biggest thing is fire and maneuver,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Ward, a platoon commander with 1st Tank Bn., 1st Mar. Div. “A tank is armored protected fires, shock and awe and its mobile. It can move across the battlefield faster and provide direct, accurate fires on the objective so the ground element can clean up whatever’s left.”
Within every M1A1 Main Battle Tank are four crewmen, who ensure each tank is working efficiently during any mission. 1st Tank Bn. is utilized as an expeditionary, armor-protected force capable of firing high power direct fires on an objective. The battalion’s capabilities are best used to support troops on the ground.
The joint exercise allowed the British to employ 1st Tanks, integrating them into their own scheme of maneuver.
“For the most part, it felt the same as when we support any other grunt battalion out there,” Ward said. “Obviously their tactics and strategies are a little different, but we adjusted and the transition was smooth considering we haven’t really worked with these guys.”
For 1st Tanks, this exercise gave them an opportunity to hone their support capabilities, while building upon an already established relationship with the British.
The exercise served a slightly different purpose for the Commando Group. They do not utilize tanks as part of their ground force support, so this gave them a unique opportunity to see the benefits of having tanks support a designated mission.
“In the simplest terms, the purpose for us is to prepare 42 Commando Group for worldwide contingent operations,” said Lt. Col. Rich Cantrill, the 42 Commando Group commanding officer. “I know by deploying to Twentynine Palms my people not only get training that they could never get anywhere else but that they also experience tactical and cultural exchange with their fellow Marines. It has been my honor to have commanded USMC main battle tanks on a live-fire attack. This is an experience I won’t forget.”
The exercise also presented an opportunity for Marines with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, to conduct training with the Royal Marines, which covered Medium Girder Bridge employment, patrolling, dismounted route clearance and enhanced the overall mobility of the Royal Marine’s ground combat element.
“The training during Black Alligator provided an outstanding opportunity for Bridge Company Marines to partner with the British Royal Engineers and adjacent USMC engineers to enhance the mobility of 42 Commando,” said Capt. Jacob Krebs, company commander, Bridge Co. “The opportunity to train together and to share tactics, techniques, and procedures greatly enhanced our interoperability and understanding of each other's capabilities. This opportunity will foster success during future operations and helped cement the special relationship enjoyed by British and American engineers."
Both entities were impressed and expressed gratitude for each other’s support.
“I was really impressed with how motivated and intense they were through the whole thing,” Ward said. “Like I said before, their tactics are a little different but when they attack an objective it’s hard and fast, and that’s what I like to see.”
The CO of the commando group was also impressed with the tactics and capabilities of 1st Tanks, but he was evenly impressed with the hospitality they were given while visiting the U.S.
“Something I would actually highlight that binds all of this together is the breath-taking generosity and good will of the USMC,” Cantrill said. “We have been so lucky to have been provided with all the range access and attached arms that we have needed. The good will of the USMC has made the greatest impression of me.”
The ability to work effectively with allied nations is one of the key components of mission readiness in the Marine Corps. Marines will continue to operate with the British Royal Marines in the future to further promote interoperability and theater security.