Strategic Partners Mark Week of Multiple Visits, Joint Drills

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EILAT, Israel — The US and Israel are marking a jam-packed week of military-to-military cooperation that cuts across all services and command echelons, from America’s top-ranked officer – USMC Gen. Joseph Dunford – to members of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), who are winding up a five-month deployment with rest and relaxation here in this Red Sea resort town.

While Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, began meetings in Tel Aviv Sunday with his Israeli counterpart, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, dozens of US Air Force personnel joined the Israel Air Force in launching Blue Flag, a two-week multinational exercise at Israel’s Uvda Air Base in the Arava desert.

Not far away, at one of Israel’s desert training schools, officers from the US Army and four other countries are winding up a one-month course focusing on ground tactics and ethics in urban combat.

The US officers participating in Israel’s first-ever international officers course include a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot, a US Army brigade-level intelligence officer and a graduate of the US Army Ranger school who is going into Special Forces Assessment after the course, US and Israeli officials said.

And docked here in Eilat’s Gulf of Aqaba is the USS Anchorage, part of a three-ship Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) comprised of the big deck USS Essex and the USS Rushmore dock landing ship.

The Anchorage set sail in May from its home port of San Diego for training in the Pacific before its ARG deployment in the Persian Gulf and Africa.

Interviewed Sunday at a beachside bistro here, a group of Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th MEU said they had just come from 30-days of joint training in Djibouti with the French 5th Overseas Combined Arms Regiment.

The ship is scheduled to leave Eilat on Monday for Guam before finally returning home to San Diego.

Email: bopallrome@defensenews.com

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