US forces storm beaches, practice landing helicopters on ships with Italian and French troops
By SCOTT WYLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 17, 2018
NAPLES, Italy — The U.S. Navy and Marines are training with their Italian and French counterparts in the Mediterranean Sea, during an exercise that coincides with a recent Russian navy buildup in the region.
The destroyer USS Mitscher, a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol jet and a contingent from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit took part in the 12-day Mare Aperto exercise that ends Thursday.
The services simulated amphibious assaults, conducted live-fire training and anti-submarine warfare drills, and practiced landing helicopters on ships, officials said.
It’s imperative for the U.S. and its allies to work well together in case they must counter potential adversaries like Russia, Adm. James Foggo, head of Naval Forces Europe and Africa, said in a podcast last month.
Russia has been building up its naval presence in the Mediterranean in recent months amid increased tensions in Syria, where government forces have threatened to assault Idlib province, one of the last major rebel-held areas in the country. The naval buildup has included at least 10 warships, many armed with long-range Kalibr cruise missiles.
The Mitscher left Norfolk on Sept. 20 for a scheduled seven-month deployment.
“There is simply no substitute for warships operating together to build trust,” Cmdr. Ian Scaliatine, the Mitscher’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “Mare Aperto is going to … hone the coordination needed to respond to a crisis together.”
One challenge was linking the ships’ communications to the various staffs, but that was resolved after a series of drills, Scaliatine said.
The 13th MEU trained with an Italian marine battalion for two weeks, conducting live-fire drills and multiple amphibious landings, said Capt. Michael Falvey, the unit’s commander.
The Italian amphibious transport dock San Giusto helped carry out a battalion-sized simulated assault at night on a training area in Sardinia, Falvey said. Marines seized beach landing sites and moved inland to destroy an air-defense artillery threat, he said.
It was valuable for the Marines to see the tactics their Italian counterparts use, Falvey said.
“Each Marine gains something unique every time we work live and communicate with partner militaries,” Falvey said.
An SH-90 helicopter from the Italian frigate Virgino Fasan conducts deck landings aboard the USS Mitscher in the Mediterranean Sea on Oct. 7, 2018, during exercise Mare Aperto. The exercise gave American sailors and Marines a chance to train with and learn from Italian and French militaries.
JACOB MILHAM/U.S. NAVY