MUMBAI, India (NNS) -- U.S. Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable (MEU/SOC) conducted training with Indian soldiers assigned to the 9th Battalion of the Sikh Infantry aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) during exercise Malabar 2006, Oct. 24-28.
Marines of MEU's Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/4, currently embarked aboard Boxer, provided small-arms weapons handling and live-fire with their Indian counterparts while Special Purpose Force (MSFP) Marines conducted visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercises with the Indian soldiers aboard Indian ships.
The VBSS exercises included helicopter search and seizure, small boat operations, and beach recon in support of amphibious landings.
"The VBSS training brought U.S. Marines together with Indian commandos to share tactics, techniques and procedures pertaining to each other's special forces teams," said Marine Capt. Todd Opalski, platoon commander of U.S. Marine Force Recon. "Training with Indian special forces improves international integration."
The purpose of the integration was to offer the militaries from both nations a chance to learn from each other, while also exchanging ideas and experiences on expeditionary warfare, which is the primary focus for the first time of Exercise Malabar 06.
"We learned a lot from the Indian army," said Marine 1st Lt. Daniel Priest, executive officer of the weapon's company. "Controlling a platoon-sized element in a counter-insurgency environment is an area that the Indian soldiers were experts at."
During the four days, the Indian soldiers were aboard Boxer, they not only trained with the Marines but also experienced daily life on a U.S. Navy ship.
"This exercise is not only important to develop relations with the Indian army, but to also learn from their history, techniques and military structure," said Marine Capt. Scott Gehris, Weapons Company commander. "Cross-training with the Indians is something we don't get to do everyday."
Boxer Sailors were also given the chance to interact with the Indian soldiers.
"I showed a few of the Indians how to find their way around the ship," said Boxer Machinist's Mate Fireman George Mendez. "The ship can be intimidating, and it was great helping them out. They were always very polite and professional."
According to Gehris, military relations between U.S. and Indian forces are strong, and there is hope that exercises such as Malabar will continue to grow with additional international involvement among allied nations.
"The whole experience has been very good in the sense that both militaries have learned so much from each other these past few days," said Indian army Capt. Dinesh Singh of the 9th Battalion Sikh Light Infantry. "The Marines went out of their way to help us understand the way they fight."
Although both the Indian army and the U.S. Marines have different missions, interoperability between the two is important in case future operations develop, said Singh.
"In order to operate efficiently, the coalition forces must believe in each other," continued Singh. "Malabar 2006 gives us this opportunity."
Malabar 2006 is a multinational exercise between the U.S., Indian and Canadian armed forces to increase interoperability between the three nations and support international security cooperation missions.
It is the first time an expeditionary strike group has coordinated an exercise of this scale, involving all warfare areas including sea, land and air.
Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG), operating out of San Diego, which is reporting operationally to Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/ Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious task force.
For related news, visit the Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/ctf76/.