Marine expeditionary unit trains in Israel, Romania
NAPLES, Italy — A Marine Corps unit has members training simultaneously in Israel and Romania, two strategically important nations experiencing tensions with their neighbors.
The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is participating in two exercises that began last week — Juniper Cobra in Israel and Spring Storm in Romania. Both exercises are intended to sharpen tactical skills by training with foreign allies.
Juniper Cobra, the larger of the two, is focused on boosting missile defenses through computer simulations and on military drills on land and sea. About 2,500 U.S. military personnel from all services are taking part.
“The U.S. is deeply committed to the defense of Israel,” said Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, head of U.S. European Command, in a statement. “We will continue to work alongside them to promote stability throughout the region, not only for the purposes of this exercise, but in the event of any real-world contingency.”
Marines trained with the Israeli military and practiced ship-to-shore movements from their amphibious assault vessel, the USS Iwo Jima.
The 26th MEU, based in North Carolina, was deployed to the 6th Fleet theater in January after assisting with hurricane disaster relief in Key West, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
One of seven Marine expeditionary units, it conducts training exercises and activities that support 6th Fleet as well as emergency and combat missions when needed.
For Spring Storm, Marines went to the Black Sea region, which has been tense since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Relations between the U.S. and Moscow have grown more strained since the Navy installed a missile-defense station in Romania and began building another in Poland.
Moscow has called it a provocative move against Russia’s missile program. U.S. officials insist the purpose is to thwart missile attacks from all adversaries.
Marines trained with the Romanian army, shooting on a live-fire range, maneuvering in urban terrain and conducting a simulated amphibious assault, said Capt. Natalie Poggemeyer, a 26th MEU spokeswoman.
They also trained with a Romanian women’s unit, which included using live fire and non-lethal weapons, patrolling and handling detainees, she said.
“Exercises like this allow us to build our capability to work together to respond to threats in the region,” Poggemeyer said.