MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- While Iraq, Afghanistan and the other theatres in the Global War on Terrorism dominate headlines, the world does not stop in terms of other conflicts and peacekeeping missions that require support from the United States Marine Corps and its allies around the world.
The Corps fosters their relationship with one such ally, Chile, through an annual program called Centauro Exchange Program, in which the United States and Chile exchange detachments of Marines in order to cross-train their troops and create a sense of camaraderie.
“It’s a great honor to host the Chilean marines for the bilateral exchange program,” said Lt. Col. Christopher T. Mayette, commanding officer, 10th Marine Regiment, which was selected to host the Chilean detachment this year. “Marines around the globe share a special bond with each other and this is just another opportunity to enhance this bond with our allies.”
An intense training regimen for the Chileans covering many varied aspects of combat was developed for their one-month stay aboard Camp Lejeune, said Mayette.
“We’ve got an aggressive training program that includes recon training, [Military Operations in Urban Terrain] facility training, engineering work, artillery training and then we cap it off with some combined work in the MOUT [Finishing Exercise],” he said.
For the Chilean marines, this opportunity will mark a unique experience for them, individually.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to work with the American military in my 21 years in the [Chilean] marines,” said Gunnery Sgt. Nelson Rosas, platoon sergeant, Reconnaissance Platoon, Chilean Amphibious Brigade, speaking through a translator. “I’ve always heard how the United States Marine Corps works and trains, but this is my first time to see it first-hand.”
Seeing the Corps up close and personal also means being able to take advantage of the greater assets of the American military. While they have many weapons systems in common with the United States, such as the MK-19 40mm and the M2 .50-cal. machine guns, they do not have the opportunities to fire the weapons as frequently as their American counterparts.
“We’re going to be doing about two or three years of shooting in 30 days,” said Maj. Christian H. Veeris, Chile exchange officer, Marine Forces South.
Of particular importance to both sides of the exchange program is the MOUT facility training.
“The MOUT they’re going to do here is huge,” said Veeris. “They’re doing six-month rotations to Haiti as part of the peacekeeping force there.”
The Chilean marines will begin diving into the training schedule October 24, where the infantrymen will attend a heavy machine gun course and artillerymen will attend an artillery training session, designed to serve as an overview of how U.S. Marines employ their M198 155mm Medium Howitzers, said Capt. Wayne J. Waltrip, commanding officer, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment.
The training schedule also includes tours of Jacksonville, N.C. and the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial in Wilmington, N.C. In addition, the Chileans will attend the Marine Corps birthday celebration here November 6.
The Chilean marines will undoubtedly remain busy for the duration of their stay here, but detachment commander 1st Lt. Oliver A. Torres-Molina is upbeat.
“This is an excellent opportunity to work with American Marines and to build camaraderie between the Chilean and American Marine Corps,” he said.