News Releases
Photo Information

U.S. Marines with the Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) (MEU(SOC)) Bravo Command Element, and service members from the Italian Marines San Marco Brigade, participate in an integrated live-fire range as part of a Norwegian Bilateral Exercise in Setermoen, Norway, Aug. 8, 2023. The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), assigned to the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and embarked 26th MEU(SOC), under the command and control of Task Force 61/2, is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied and partner interests. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michele Clarke)

Photo by Cpl. Michele Clarke

26th MEU(SOC) Bravo Command Element and Italian San Marco Brigade Marines Strengthen Interoperability in the High North

17 Aug 2023 | 1st Lt. Stephanie Downing 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Elements of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (Special Operations Capable) (MEU(SOC)) are training alongside Norwegian Armed Forces and Italian Marines from the San Marco Brigade during a Norwegian bilateral training exercise, 5-21 Aug. 2023.

The training event began with the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, USS Mesa Verde’s (LPD-19) arrival in Narvik to offload the 26th MEU(SOC) equipment.

While in Narvik, the USS Mesa Verde and 26th MEU(SOC) welcomed Italian Marines from the San Marco Marine Brigade, who will be fully integrating with the 26th MEU(SOC), C. Company, BLT 1/6 throughout portions of the deployment within SIXTH Fleet.

The Norway bilateral training event started Aug. 5 and will continue throughout the High North including Setermoen and Bardufuss culminating with a Norwegian Fires Summit at the end of the month.

The Norway bilateral exercise provides elements of the 26th MEU(SOC) an opportunity train alongside U.S., Italian, and Norwegian Armed Forces to exchange tactics, techniques, and procedures, participate in multiple integrate live-fire events, battle drills, patrols, and long-range hikes in order to strengthen the long-standing relationship and interoperability amongst the allied forces.

Prior to the arrival of the Norwegian Armed Forces during the Norway bilateral training exercise, the Marines of “Cold Steel” Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/6 had the opportunity to work side-by-side and interoperate with Italian Marines from the San Marco Marine Brigade, to include integrated training and operations during the TRANSLANT transit from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to Narvik, Norway.

“This is a great opportunity for the Marines and Sailors to work closely with some of our valued NATO Allies and Partners,” said Col. Sampson, Commanding Officer of 26th MEU(SOC). “Successfully integrating the Italian Marines from the San Marco Brigade into our formation with the Marines of Charlie Company, BLT 1/6 and conducting integrated training with Norwegians from Brigade North was easy, and truly showcases our interoperability and interdependence with our Allies and Partners within the Sixth Fleet AOR.” Sampson concluded.

The Italian Marines were divided and integrated into each platoon of Charlie Company, BLT 1/6 in order to form a cohesive unit prior to executing complex integrated live-fire events in Norway.

For most of the Marines, this is the first time they will have the opportunity to work and integrate with our NATO Ally and partners.

“For the platoon, I would say this is a unique experience. This is the first time for a lot of the Marines to train with someone who did not receive the same training as them,” said 1st Lt. Blake Gratton, Charlie Company, 1st Platoon Commander. “Working with the Italians Marines went very well. Our Marines had to be concise and clear in communicating due to a slight language barrier, but as a whole, the Italian Marines were seamlessly able to operate with us at the squad level and below,” Gratton continued.

“To have the opportunity to be a part of the 26th MEU(SOC) allows us to share our tactics, techniques, and procedures, integrate effectively, as well as, to improve partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy,” said 1st Lt. Emilio Iusto, Liaison Naval Officer with San Marco Marine Brigade. “The Marines are really enjoying the experience to train. For some of them, it’s their first time working with a company of U.S. Marines, and even now it is better because they are serving as part of Charlie Company. It is very cool and they are very happy to train with the U.S. Marines,” Iusto continued.

The 26th MEU(SOC) serves as one of the United States premier crisis response forces capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response, and limited contingency operations, to include enabling the introduction of follow-on-forces and designated special operations, in support of theater requirements of the Geographic Combatant Commander. Coupled with the USS Bataan ARG, the 26th MEU(SOC) serves as a premier stand-in force with a full complement of all-domain capabilities to operate persistently within the littorals or weapons engagement zones of an adversary.

The Bataan ARG and embarked 26th MEU(SOC), under the tactical command and control of Task Force 61/2, is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied, and partner interests.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) operates U.S. Naval Forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.