Using a scenario based around a hostile occupying force, the Royal Marines from the Lead Commando Group (LCG) joined up with their Albanian counterparts to practise their training for contingent operations as part of Royal Navy exercise Cougar 12.
Under the cover of smoke grenades, the combined forces quickly pounced on the ‘enemy’ lurking in the old submarine base on Sazan Island, taking them by surprise and then fighting their way through a complex labyrinth of bunkers and buildings.
For 16 hours the Anglo-Albanian forces chased the enemy down, pushing them back all the time as they exercised the skills being practiced under Cougar 12.
Captain Ric Moat of Zulu Company, 45 Commando Royal Marines, said:
The size and scale of Sazan Island is impressive. It provides a unique training opportunity for amphibious forces. It is a stern test, it is realistic, and it is demanding training.
Raiding from the sea is clearly a different challenge to our land operations in Afghanistan, but it is no less challenging to deliver.
As well as the old Soviet submarine base, Sazan Island is home to a chemical and biological weapons plant and there are more than 100 buildings and 5.7 square kilometres of trenches and bunkers.
Major Richard Alston of 3 Commando Brigade said:
The complexity of the exercise should not be underestimated. We have completed two consecutive night raids and have now pushed reconnaissance teams 110 miles [177km] inland.
We are currently conducting a non-combatant evacuation exercise with the British embassy staff as part of the exercise scenario and have achieved all this in three days and nights.
As part of the Response Force Task Group, the LCG, made up of 45 Commando and 3 Commando Brigade, are inserted by sea and Royal Navy warships into trouble spots.
These operations, such as Libya last year, require a rapid reaction force to quickly deploy in response to unexpected world events.
Cougar 12 involves more than 3,000 sailors, marines and airmen in addition to four Royal Navy warships and one Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship which provide the platforms to plan the operations and also protect the troops from the sea and air.
Having practiced their skills alongside French Marines and soldiers in Corsica in October, the LCG will complete Albanian Lion before heading back to the UK at the end of the month.