Tactics, Training During Tartan Eagle
by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kealii De Los Santos
January 19, 2023
Cpl Charlie Walker, a general duties corporal with the 43 commando fleet protection group Royal Marines (43 Cdo RM) training office, trained and oversaw U.S. Marines with Marine Corps Security Force Regiment during the cold two weeks of exercise Tartan Eagle 2022. As a corporal with 43 Cdo RM, it is his duty to assist and conduct training to the British Royal Marine Commandos; as well as, partnered forces.
October 24, 2022 - British Royal Marine Cpl. Charlie Walker, a GD training corporal with 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines (43 Cdo RM), conducts a weapon familiarization test for U.S. Marines with Marine Corps Security Force Regiment on the C8 assault rifle during the annual bilateral training exercise Tartan Eagle Phase II, Otterburn Training Camp, Europe. U.S. Marines must properly handle the Royal Marines primary weapon system to pass the annual combat marksmanship training test, while overseas with 43 Cdo RM. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Kealii De Los Santos.)
“Training can vary from the jobs I have to do. With 43 Commando, it’s to protect the nuclear deterrence of the United Kingdom. Their [43 Cdo RM] role is primarily to support and maintain that, and they need to keep a high level of quality for their skill sets: fieldcraft, close-quarters-battle, vehicle maneuvers, etc.”
43 Cdo is part of 3 Commando Brigade, the United Kingdom’s high-readiness expeditionary amphibious force that divert, disrupt, delay, or destroy an enemy's military potential before it can be used effectively against friendly forces across the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean. 43 Cdo works not only with the U.S. Marine Corps but with the Ministry Of Defence Police, the Atomic Weapons Establishment, and U.S. Coast Guard to name a few. 43 Cdo RM specialists are capable of warfighting in unique and complex terrain such as urban, maritime, and industrial environments.
“For exercise Tartan Eagle, I help the United States Marines train together, learn from each other, and help each other develop the Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Teams (FAST) experience in a European environment. Giving them the opportunity to train in different countries and climates from what they are used to. There’s a lot of guys here from the desert it sounds like, and not quite used to the cold and wet. Gives them a different perspective on ‘soldiering’ then they might be used to as a FAST platoon member.”
U.S. Marines assigned with a FAST platoon have to be an active enlisted infantry Marine (03XX). FAST teams guard high-value naval installations, vessels, and nuclear weapons. Whilst expected to train for close-quarters battle and embassy reinforcement operations, these infantry Marines don’t engage in many typical training exercises associated with a majority of Marine Corps infantry. Fieldcraft, patrolling, and long-distance firing ranges are all infantry specific skill sets that 43 Cdo RM assists with training for the duration of Exercise Tartan Eagle.
“The first week is a field firing package, starting out with simple static shooting, battle sight zeroing, and finding natural points of aim. Progressing throughout the week, U.S. Marines fire as individuals to firing in pairs with fire and maneuver or what we call ‘field firing.’ From fire and maneuver they move on to firing in a squad, what we call ‘section.’ For us that’s 8 people, for the U.S. Marines it’s a couple more. Operating on your squad level, trying to use your tactics, helping give advice on potential tactics that you can learn from us and vice versa.”
U.S. Marines fire the C8 assault rifle, the Royal Marine Commandos’ primary weapon and standard issue rifle, during their time with 43 Cdo RM. The C8 is very similar to the M4 and M16 design and build, thus not much of a learning curve is adherent when familiarizing themselves with the firearm.
However, to progress through the training week U.S. Marines must show competent weapons handling skills and pass the Annual Combat Marksmanship Test (ACMT), a requirement to safely conduct live-fire exercises on the Royal Marines firing ranges. The ACMT tests a shooter's ability to fire quickly and accurately from several positions to include prone, standing, and firing from a defensive fighting position.
“The second week is a field week, sort of a week-long exercise. The U.S. Marines spent the first night in the field in a triangular harbor, which is the standard for how the Royal Marine come to field exercises. They managed to experience the great British weather; the cold, the wet, there’s a lot of water, and I'm sure a lot of them have learned personal maintenance of themselves, their kit, and equipment. From there they move into a (simulated) Forward Operating Base location where they conduct security from a (simulated) enemy force to push and test them to see what their capabilities are.”
Learning how to better use camouflage paint and conceal yourself within the burnt red and yellow ferns that paint the brush of the European countryside is easier said than done. During this winter training period, Marines and their gear awoke in a glossy morning dew to chilling temperatures and a cool breeze of untainted air hovering over from the night. Shivering and wet, Marines exercised discipline to keep themselves hidden. Any unnecessary movement would attract the eyes of 43 Cdo RM instructors that stood observing the training event.
Warmth came when reviewing the reconnaissance and patrolling practices of each command. Walking, staying alert, awaiting orders, providing security, issuing orders, all within a day's work outside of garrison. The tactics learned from 43 Cdo RM would go on to assist Alpha platoon’s success during a Marine Readiness Exercise held at the end of training.
“I do think they’ve learned from this exercise, especially from observing it. These FAST Marines have a very specific role and I hope they learned some new skills they won’t necessarily be funneled into as part of the USMC in their current job role. I’m sure they do across the wider USMC, but the actual in the field, field firing across open ground, and the different tactics that it takes to move across a long open bit of ground under fire while shooting live.”
When thinking about a military training exercise with the United States Marines and the British Royal Marines many picture harsh weather, muscle strains, mental fatigue, hunger, and an overwhelming desire for a safe return home. The U.S. Marines of Alpha platoon, Fast Co., MCSFR surpassed both physical and mental barriers executing Exercise Tartan Eagle 2022. They learned from the guidance of specialists with 43 Cdo RM, who staged, trained, and perfectly executed professional military education to further our partnership with the U.K. military and hone Alpha platoon’s overall lethality.
“This is actually my second tartan eagle and the first one I've done in a corporal role. The last tartan eagle I’ve done was the US version about nine years ago, which was fantastic. I loved going over to Virginia and experiencing that. It was a lot more static shooting and close-quarters battle based whereas this one has been what we call ‘green skills’ based. I really enjoyed this, really enjoyed the experience meeting these guys and girls. It’s been a good representation of the United States Marine Corps. They’ve learned what they needed to learn and they've taken onboard what we’ve tried to help them with.”
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