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Commando gunners' refiner in North Carolina

Commando gunners’ refiner in North Carolina
16 October 2017
Here’s a bit of fire and fury for you on a Monday morning. Commando gunners let rip alongside their American cousins as combined US Marine Corps-Royal Marines training gets under way in North Carolina.

For the past six years, the Americans have staged a major international amphibious exercise on their vast ‘playground’ at Camp Lejeune – the USMC’s principal east coast base.

Roughly half way between Norfolk and Charleston, the base and exercise areas cover nearly 250 square miles – about half the size of Greater Manchester – allowing training possibilities mostly impossible in the cramped UK.

Heading across the Atlantic for Bold Alligator 2017 are 45 Commando from Arbroath and their artillery support from 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery – soldiers who have earned the coveted green beret to fight side-by-side with Britain’s commandos.

Their party piece is the 105mm field gun – capable of firing half a dozen 5kg shells at targets up to 20km (12 miles) away.

“Looking at how the US Marines do things and how they use their equipment, we see minute differences in how we do things,” said gunnery officer Lieutenant Tom Brindley-Slater. “Being an artillery gunner, the results are the same in the end.”

Namely 2.5kg of high explosive going ‘boom’.

When we work together during operations, we can understand how each other work; this essentially gets all of the pieces together as one

Lieutenant Tom Brindley-Slater, Commando gunnery officer

“It’s important for us to understand how everyone operates,” said fellow officer Lt Paul Wilson. “When we work together during operations, we can understand how each other work; this essentially gets all of the pieces together as one.”

The biggest difference the gunners have found are climatic; instead of the temperate surroundings of Plymouth’s Citadel or the North Sea-chill of Arbroath, it’s in the high 20s Celsius at Camp Lejeune, even in late October, the terrain is swampy, and humidity is nearly 100 per cent.

Such sticky conditions are ideal for taking the commandos out of their comfort zone and better preparing them for deploying anywhere in the world.

And not just British marines. Troops from Norway, France, Canada, Brazil and Mexico have also accepted the invitation to the latest Bold Alligator.

Not only does Camp Lejeune cover a vast area, but it also encompasses 14 miles of shoreline – ideal for amphibious landings.

“The ability to launch from the sea at a time and place of our choosing is still unique to the Royal Marine Commandos,” said Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Forbes, 45 Commando’s Commanding Officer.

“From amphibious operations to disaster relief, the Royal Marines are able to fulfil a wide variety of roles – as we’ve seen in the Caribbean recently.”

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