Hundreds of Israeli soldiers and US Marines trained shoulder-to-shoulder Monday in southern Israel as part of Juniper Cobra 2018, drilling on close urban combat and tunnel warfare.
While the two-week joint Israeli/American military exercise drills on various scenarios adapted to Israel’s operational reality such as missile threats in various sectors simultaneously, the Marines have not directly participated in the missile drills that comprised the majority of Juniper Cobra.
Instead the 650 Marines trained with Israeli troops at the Tze’elim Army Base in several operational scenarios, including live fire and artillery drills, in order to enhance interoperability and cooperation between the two allies.
Calling the training with the Israelis “incredible,” Lt.-Col. Marcus Mainz, commanding officer, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, told reporters that this year’s Juniper Cobra is the largest that the US Marine Corps and Navy have participated in for six years.
“Both of our militaries have lots of experience, but that experience is different – from different places – and what we are able to do here is take our experiences from [the] last conflicts that we’ve been in and to share them,” he said, adding that this “allows us to increase the potency of both military forces.”
The instructors during the drills “teach the young soldiers and Marines how to see. They teach them what they saw – [whether] in the Gaza Strip or somewhere else on the battlefield like Afghanistan or Iraq,” Mainz continued, adding that “they teach them what to look for; what does the open door mean; what does the item on the ground mean to you? And [the soldiers] get to hear it from two perspectives.”
Mainz, who spent several years fighting in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, told The Jerusalem Post that the Israeli expertise differs from that of the Americans, especially in terms of tunnel warfare, which they haven’t encountered since the 1970s in Vietnam.
“Everyone has their expertise, so when we are here fighting in an urban environment, the IDF is as good as it gets inside this kind of environment, and we learn a lot from them [about] how to be effective,” Mainz said.
“In terms of tunnels, we have no experience there. It’s not something we’ve fought through, so the IDF teaches us that. What we teach them is that we get our big mechanized vehicles out and we teach the Israelis how to use them in an urban environment and be effective,” he added.
Some 1,400 Marines deployed with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima are participating in Juniper Cobra 2018 along with 1,100 sailors and 2,000 IDF troops.
In addition to the thousands of Marines and the Iwo Jima, whose home port is the Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida, the Americans have also deployed the USS Mount Whitney as well as their Patriot missile-defense system, Aegis ballistic missile-defense system, communication systems, 25 aircraft and three hovercraft.
It is the largest joint exercise with US military’s European Command this year.