U.S. Marines, Russians take big steps in Poland
Stars and Stripes June 13, 2003
Marines reached a milestone this week when they landed side-by-side on a beach in Poland with their counterparts from the Russian military.
“It’s very historic,” said Marine Col. Lee Busby, commander of the combined landing force that hit the Gdynia, Poland, beach Wednesday in a training exercise.
About 170 troops from the Marines, Russian Naval Infantry, and Polish, Danish and Lithuanian militaries participated in the landing.
Last year Russia was added to the U.S. European Command’s area of responsibility. Since then, top U.S. Marines and leaders of the Russian Naval Infantry, akin to the Marines, have met in Russia and in Stuttgart, Germany, home of EUCOM. This is the first time the Marines and Russian Naval Infantry have participated in a larger-scale training exercise.
The landing was part of the 31st annual Baltic Operations maritime exercise, known as BALTOPS. Parts of the exercise are occurring in the Baltic Sea and in Poland, Germany and Denmark until June 23. The exercise began Sunday.
The U.S. Marines are from Company F, 2nd Battalion, the 24th Marine Division, a reserve unit from Milwaukee, and the 4th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company out of West Palm Beach, Fla.
Less than 300 Marines are assigned to Marine Corps Forces Europe, and the command relies upon Marines from other commands.
Busby said that while American forces have better and more readily available communications technology, such as Internet access and cellular phones, the Russians know how to make simple technology more effective.
“It’s not better or worse, just different,” said Busby, who is also deputy chief of staff for Marine Corps Forces Europe, which is headquartered in Stuttgart.
To compensate for their technology shortcomings, the Russians use a command structure that is flexible so that subordinate commanders have clear ideas of a commander’s overall intent, he said.
Wednesday’s landing began at 8 a.m. and took about 45 minutes. The troops arrived on amphibious landing vehicles in two waves.
Troops from different countries worked together, Busby said.
“It was picture perfect,” he said. Strong winds the previous few days had created the possibility of canceling the landing, Busby said, but on Wednesday “the trees were standing straight up.”
Thirteen nations are participating in this year’s exercise, including more than 3,600 personnel, 36 ships, three submarines, more than 40 aircraft, and six different ground force elements from these NATO and Partnership for Peace nations: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
BALTOPS is intended to improve interoperability with NATO and PFP nations by conducting peace-support operations at sea, including gunnery exercises, replenishment at sea, undersea warfare, radar tracking, mine countermeasures, seamanship, search and rescue, maritime interdiction operations and scenarios dealing with potential real-world crises.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. George E. Mayer, commander, Carrier Group 8, based in Norfolk, Va., is supervising the exercise from flagship USS Vella Gulf which, along with USS Ross, arrived at Gdynia Harbor on June 5 to represent the United States.