His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent has paid a visit to the Royal Marines of 42 Commando while on Exercise Black Alligator in the Californian desert.
Prince Michael, Commodore-in-Chief of the combined Maritime Reserves, witnessed first hand the unique and challenging training being undertaken by the Royal Marines and Royal Marine Reserve.
Exercise Black Alligator is an annual exercise held at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center where the Royal Marines train alongside their American and Dutch counterparts.
The visit began with a tour of Camp Wilson where the Commandos are living for the duration of the exercise. The Prince then visited the vast ranges available at the training centre where he observed Close Quarter Combat training and live Urban Troop Attacks supported by Viking vehicles.
He said: “This was an excellent opportunity for me to see at first hand the quality of the training undertaken by Royal Marine Reservists in some of the harshest mountain conditions on earth, and to understand the physical and mental demands placed upon them. I remain very proud of their performance.”
Royal Marine Reservists, who are fully integrated into Exercise Black Alligator alongside their full time counterparts, were then invited to meet the Prince during lunch. They discussed aspects of reservist life and participation in the exercise whilst Prince Michael was shown how to heat a MRE (“meal ready to eat”).
Before leaving the desert, Prince Michael was able to try his hand at some of the equipment used by the Marines including experiencing weapon handling and driving vehicles through the desert terrain.
Exercise Black Alligator is played out on the US Marine Corps’ huge all-terrain exercise area – a space eight times larger than Salisbury Plain to allow unparalleled use of firepower in training.
The full range of the Royal Marines’ armoury – Viking armoured vehicles, 105mm field guns, mortars, heavy machine-guns, Javelin anti-tank missiles and combat engineers – will also all be tested over the next six weeks. Alongside the Dutch and US marines, the Commandos will take part in live firing, perfect their urban combat drill and conduct a Battlegroup-sized live-fire Commando raid.
Ex Black Alligator 15 forms part of the multi-environment training package that the Commando Group takes part in to ensure they remain at high readiness. This will also include specialist training in cold weather warfare in Norway; jungle warfare in Gabo; plus armoured vehicle, aviation and chemical warfare training.
Next year will see the men of 42 Cdo take over the nation’s high-readiness Lead Commando Group – a contingency force able to deploy anywhere in the world at very short notice.