The following blog is from Col. Robert Fulford, commanding officer, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, speaking on his experience during four day of the Turkish-led and hosted amphibious exercise Egemen 2015, Oct. 27.
In April 1915, one of the most iconic battles of World War I occurred on the Gallipoli peninsula, in what is now modern day Turkey. At the time, British, Australian, and New Zealand Allied forces conducted an amphibious landing in an effort to defeat the Ottomans and open the critical Dardanelles Strait. After eight months of hard fighting, the Allies withdrew from the peninsula, unable to achieve their objectives. One of the Turkish heroes during this battle was General Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who later became the father of the modern Republic of Turkey.
The lessons from this first modern amphibious assault have been broadly studied throughout the world. Chief among the lessons are the importance of interoperability amongst the assaulting forces, well-coordinated and rehearsed timelines, critical pre-assault fires, the need for flexibility in execution, and the complexities inherent in amphibious operations. Simply put, this is one of, if not the most, difficult military operations to conduct.
Egemen 2015 provided us an opportunity to return to the roots of amphibious operations and practically apply these lessons with an assault on Doganbey, Turkey. This time, U.S. Navy and Marine forces from the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) / 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted an amphibious assault alongside Turkish Sailors and Marines. Observing this event were a host of senior leadership from the Turkish armed forces, along with representatives from the United Kingdom, the Republic of Korea, and members of the Defense Attaché community.
As the scene unfolded from the beach, two Turkish F-16s stormed overhead for pre-assault fires, as a Turkish Landing Craft Tank (LCT) dropped its ramp on the shoreline. A platoon of Turkish Marines stormed the beach, and set up a security perimeter around the LCT. As the ship withdrew into the sea, the Turkish Marines pushed up the beach and towards the simulated town that was the objective of the assault.
Then the U.S. Navy Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCACs) came into view on the horizon. Lined up three across, they steamed towards the beach with a tail of salt spray behind them. The LCACs landed ashore, and as their ramps came down, U.S. Marine light armored vehicles (LAVs) rolled off and provided simulated 25mm fire support to the fight.
As the LCACs hit the beach, MV-22 Ospreys raced towards their landing zones to insert their air assault force. The first aircraft landed to the west of the objective, and a squad of Marines poured out and set up the security perimeter. Then, the other two Ospreys landed on the beach to the south and U.S. and Turkish Marines disembarked. They assaulted up the beach in leap-frog movements and tactically advanced into the town.
The sound of battle rang out as the U.S and Turkish Marines moved through the town, systematically clearing buildings to ensure each was secure before moving to the next. Colored smoke popped from smoke grenades and obscured the Marines moving across danger areas.
The intricate choreography of this mission was the result of months of planning before the Kearsarge ARG and 26th MEU arrived in Turkey, coupled with the past two days of hard work and training here with our Turkish counterparts.
Overall, today was a resounding success. The mission was executed safely with a multitude of lessons learned for all parties. This exercise enhanced the interoperability of U.S. and Turkish forces at the small unit and at the Commander of the Amphibious Task Force / Commander of the Landing Force levels. We are a much improved force as a result of this training opportunity.
Editor’s note: This blog was originally published Oct. 28, 2015 on U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet’s blog.