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Coconut Grove goes out with a bang

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Stealthy U.S. and Maldivian Marines in full camouflage and dull face paint crept through the thick Maldivian vegetation, stalking their objectives deep in enemy territory.

U.S. Marines of Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and their counterparts with the Maldivian National Defense Force, participated in a raid Oct. 16, as part of Exercise Coconut Grove 2012.

“Coconut Grove 2012 is a joint Theater Security Cooperation exercise held annually between the United States Marine Corps and the Maldivian National Defense Force … in order to further develop military-to-military relations, as well as improve and enhance our small-unit tactics and training procedures,” said Capt. Doug Verblaauw, commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

The raid was the culminating event for the two partner nations’ militaries, something they had been working toward since the first day of the exercise.

The Maldivian and American Marines hit the ground running. Immediately following the opening ceremony on Oct. 6, the troops threw on their field utility uniforms and went to work.

“When we got here we started to establish training at their basic skills and our basic skills so that when our final exercise came we could work with the same standard operating procedures,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Ludwig, a platoon sergeant with Company A.

The partner nations’ extensive training included casualty evacuation drills, troop accountability procedures, and military operations on urban terrain (MOUT). Throughout the exercise, they became familiar with each other’s weapons, as well as one another’s capabilities and limitations.

It wasn’t long before the MNDF and U.S. Marines’ relationship went beyond that of tactical proficiency. They began picking up on each other’s motivational war cries. Occasionally a Maldivian Marine would give a loud “ALPHA,” and the Marines of Company A proudly responded with a booming “RAIDERS.”

This interoperability between the two militaries was apparent early on.

“If a Maldivian Marine or a U.S Marine went into that room it didn’t matter, they would both be able to operate together,” Ludwig said after the troops practiced room-clearing procedures together.

The Marines also covered more advanced or technical tactics like combat marksmanship program training, limited visibility shooting, ambushing and raid procedures.

“All the smaller classes from the previous days built up, allowing us to learn from each other, to the different aspects of how we could work together and what areas we needed to work on so that we could be one cohesive unit when we operate,” Ludwig said.

This culminated with the joint-force raid, and the Marines made little error in quietly sneaking up on their objectives. They wordlessly made their way through grassy fields and thick vegetation. No more than 20 meters from their enemy, they sat and waited for the perfect moment to jump through the tree line and attack.

The raid ended successfully, speaking to the interoperability between the two forces.

“I think we had good training here,” said Lt. Col. Abdua Rauf, principal director of operations and training for the MNDF Marine Corps. “We taught them different kinds of movements, formations and how to conduct raids and ambushes.”

Aside from honing these tactical skills, Marines from Company A, stationed in dry southern California, were able to gain experience in an entirely different environment, conducting small-unit operations throughout the rainy season in a tropical, humid environment.

Article by Cpl. Isis M. Ramirez, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific