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STUTTGART, Germany — For old-timers, it was a sign of the times.

Infantry soldiers from Russia and Germany stormed the beaches of Poland, guns in hand, to keep the peace.

U.S. Marines and their equivalents from four other countries practiced a beach landing and peacekeeping operations on the northern coast of Poland this week as part of the 33rd annual Baltic Operations maritime training program.

Once on land in Ustka, Poland, the nearly 500 troops from the United States, Russia, Germany, Sweden and Lithuania, worked to diffuse two angry protests in a make-believe country and suppressed an insurgent attack from a neighboring country.

This is the third year that the Marines participated in the Navy exercise, and the first year that they made a beach landing.

The change makes the annual maritime training of 11 countries more relevant by providing scenarios the militaries are likely to confront, said Maj. Michael Kindorf, executive officer of the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Infantry Regiment, out of Encino, Calif., a reserve battalion that participated in the program.

“It created some added realism to the exercise and made it more relevant,” Kindorf said in a telephone interview.

The larger maritime exercise included navy forces from 11 countries, including 4,100 military members aboard 40 ships, two submarines, and 28 planes and helicopters. The cruiser USS Anzio, missile destroyer USS Cole and dock landing ship USS Tortuga participated.

At sea, the navy forces practiced live fire, radar tracking and seamanship. And for the first time, a Russian helicopter made a nighttime landing on a U.S. warship, according to the Navy. On land, soldiers and sailors competed in sporting events such as tug-of-war and soccer games. The event started June 5 and wraps up on Saturday.

Col. Lee Busby, deputy chief of staff for Marine Forces Europe, helped coordinate the Marines’ first participation in the exercise three years ago and was on hand this week to watch the beach landings.

He recalled an eerie feeling while standing on the Russian federation ship Nastoychiviy.

“When you’re standing on a Russian ship planning an amphibious landing, it really kind of makes you step back and think,” Busby said in an interview in Stuttgart. “That scene would have been one of the more far-fetched scenes you could think of (decades ago). When I grew up, those were the guys we fought against.”

Jason Chudy contributed to this report.


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