The United States Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade on 4 April began a two-week amphibious training event in international waters off the African coast of Djibouti.
Alligator Dagger is the largest regional amphibious combat rehearsal to integrate and synchronize Task Force 51/5’s warfighting capabilities and those of adjacent U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and special operations forces units, the US Navy said.
“USS Iwo Jima’s Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are prepared to rehearse a variety of tactical capabilities in this demanding and globally vital region,” said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Frank Donovan, commander of TF 51/5. “This critical amphibious combat proficiency training will ensure our integrated Navy and Marine Corps forces are postured and prepared to execute operations at sea, from the sea and ashore.”
The expeditionary mobile base USS Lewis B. Puller — named after Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller, one of the most decorated members of the Marine Corps – as well as the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill, the destroyer USS Laboon and the 26th MEU are participating.
Practicing Key Tasks
“Alligator Dagger allows us to employ the breadth and depth of our combined arms team in an extremely challenging expeditionary environment characterized by extreme temperatures and unforgiving terrain,” said Marine Corps Col. Farrell J. Sullivan, commanding officer of the 26th MEU. “This combat rehearsal allows us to practice our key mission essential tasks spanning the range of military operations to resolve conflict, conduct humanitarian assistance and/or combat the enemy in remote, austere environments that would otherwise be inaccessible.”
Alligator Dagger will provide Iwo Jima and Oak Hill an opportunity to enhance capabilities in critical mission sets. Using landing craft and Iwo Jima’s embarked aircraft, the ships will provide a flexible and ready amphibious capability to deliver 26th MEU Marines, equipment and supplies ashore.
Ready to Deliver
“We must be a crisis response force ready to execute mission-essential tasks for our component commanders,” said Navy Capt. Jack Killman, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 4. “Alligator Dagger will keep the Iwo Jima ARG ready to effectively deliver a multicapable amphibious force to austere environments by air or sea.”
Alligator Dagger is the premier integrated combat proficiency training the Navy and Marine Corps team engage in during their deployment in Centcom’s area of responsibility. Specifically, this exercise will enable the military to execute amphibious training; live-fire; visit, board, search and seizure; tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel; and air assault evolutions, the US Navy said.
“When it comes to crisis response, the ARG/MEU team is the force of choice,” Sullivan said. “This training will help us keep our edge sharp and keep the Marines and sailors focused. When called upon, we will be ready.”
The exercise has not been without mishap – a US Marine Corps Harrier crashed during takeoff from Djibouti Ambouli International Airport on Tuesday. The pilot of the AV-8B Harrier currently is receiving medical care.
“Doctors said the pilot was in stable condition while being evaluated at Camp Lemonnier’s expeditionary medical facility,” Navy Cmdr. William Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said in a statement.
The pilot and aircraft are assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 aboard the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, taking part in Alligator Dagger.
The exercise comes after the French military conducted training with Djibouti’s military between 19 and 22 March. Exercise Wakri saw the French Navy’s amphibious assault vessel Dixmude and frigate Surcouf as well as an army contingent take part.