VENTSPILS, LATVIA --
Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), embarked on the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), concluded exercise Northern Coasts 2023, a multinational naval exercise series in the Baltic Sea region, Sept. 4-22, 2023.
“Our forward-deployed posture and participation in Exercise Northern Coasts 2023 highlighted our warfighting readiness, flexibility, and operational capabilities to our Allies and Partners participating in this exercise,” said Lt. Col. Josef Wiese, executive officer of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and Officer-in-Charge of the Marines embarked on the USS Mesa Verde. “The Marines and Sailors with the 26th MEU(SOC) showcased their ability to integrate with German Sea Battalion Marines, Italian San Marco Brigade Marines, members of the Latvian National Guard, and U.S. Army Special Operations Forces, further strengthening our interdependence with regional partners while showcasing the interoperability of the 26th MEU(SOC) with Joint Forces and our Allies and Partners within the USEUCOM area of responsibility."
This year’s participants in the exercise include: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the United States.
The exercise began Sept. 4 with the onload of the German Sea Battalion Marine onboard the Mesa Verde, in order to execute an integrated Rapid Response Planning Process (R2P2) cycle for an amphibious assault at the beach in Ventspils.
Shortly after the arrival of the German Sea Battalion, Mesa Verde executed a port visit in Riga, Latvia, to offload personnel and equipment in support of the upcoming exercise serials.
“Exercise Northern Coasts 2023 offered the logistical team a unique training experience, supporting over 400 personnel with the necessary supplies, equipment, vehicles and transportation requirements for multiple cities in Latvia,” said 1st. Lt. Wesley Greene, Logistics Officer, Battalion Landing Team 1/6, 26th MEU(SOC), embarked on the USS Mesa Verde. “This was a great training environment, and opportunity to fully integrate our MEU(SOC) capabilities with the host nations logistical requirements and demonstrating our ability to accomplish transportation requirements, via Air, Land, or Sea,” Greene concluded.
Part of the personnel who offloaded at the Port of Riga included BLT 1/6 Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT) Red, elements of Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR), and Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 22 detachments, that travelled to Adazi, Latvia to conduct a series of advanced live-fire training events to sustain their overall warfighting capabilities and lethality.
“The Adazi training facilities provided us an opportunity to conduct advanced live-fire training with a wide variety of weapon systems, at our max effective ranges, in a unique environment,” said Gunnery Sgt. Paul E. Middaugh, platoon sergeant, BLT 1/6 CAAT Red Platoon. “We had the opportunity to integrate and operate with the United States Army’s 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, Heavy Weapons Company while they were forward deployed, showcasing our interoperability with Joint Forces and with our Allies and Partners.”
After departing Riga, Charlie Company, BLT 1/6, with elements of the German Sea Battalion and Italian San Marco Brigade Marines attached and fully integrated, executed a full-mission profile amphibious assault at the beach in Ventspils, highlighting the relevancy of the force to integrate and interoperate with our Allies and partners in the U.S. European Command area of operations. More so, this amphibious assault marked the first time a U.S. MEU(SOC) landing force participated in this multinational naval exercise.
Following the amphibious assault, BLT 1/6 Charlie Company, and attached ally and partner units, travelled to Skrunda, Latvia, to execute advanced Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT) training. In addition to integrating German Soldiers and Italian Marines, Latvian National Guard elements joined the advanced MOUT training in Skrunda, creating a training opportunity amongst four allied nations.
“This was a very unique and new training environment, working with three other Allied countries as well as the MOUT town itself,” said 1st Lt. Kiara Cola, platoon commander for the Italian San Marco Brigade Marine, attached to BLT 1/6 Charlie Company. “It is important to conduct training, like MOUT and Close-Quarters Battle (CQB), with other countries so we can establish a common language and practice in the case we have to work together for a mission in the future.”
The 26th MEU(SOC)’s involvement in exercise Northern Coast 2023 marks the first time a U.S. Landing Force participated in land-based activities during the exercise.
The 26th MEU(SOC) serves as one of the United States’ premier crisis response forces capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response, and 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 any adversary.
The Bataan ARG and embarked forces of the 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