CAIRO -- In a show of multinational military relations, fixed-wing assets from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and three countries planned and executed a fly-by at the ancient Pyramids of Giza during Exercise Bright Star today.
The coalition exercise has brought several participating and observing countries, and approx. 8,600 U.S. troops into northern Egypt for the duration of the exercise, which spans six weeks, broken down into three phases.
“It was basically a multi-national handshake,” said Sgt. Justin R. Peterson, a Deerborn, Mich., native. “It shows that we’re all willing to use our assets to support our coalition missions.”
Peterson, an aerial observer from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (reinforced), was one of eight Marines from the 13th MEU(SOC) to observe the fly-over from a CH-46E “Sea Knight” helicopter.
Careful planning from French, Egyptian and U.S. forces, including the U.S. Air Force, Army and Marines, hurdled language barriers, airspace restrictions and flight protocol to carry a French Mirage 2000, Egyptian F-16, Air Force F-15 and Marine AV-8B Harrier fighter attack jets through the low-altitude flight at a speed of 300 knots.
“To be political about it, this was a public display and execution of a peaceful mission by Coalition Forces,” explained Bourbeau. “The end result is a cool fly-by over the pyramids, but a lot of planning went into this. It just showed how well these countries worked together.”
Bourbeau also stressed the idea that the sight of friendly forces flying in formation was a time-tested morale-booster.
“I have a lot of friends who are infantry officers, and they all say the same thing: There is always something exhilarating about seeing friendly aircraft fly by.”
Although the exercise has faced the typical difficulties of bringing so many countries together in the early days of the exercise, the Egyptian government opened its arms to the idea of the goodwill flight.
“It’s one thing for us to fly by,” he said. “But to do circles for two hours (as an observer) is really amazing. We weren’t able to take pictures (in certain areas), but somehow they let us fly by their most famous possession.”
The young pilot was just one servicemember in attendance who was an awe of the mysterious beauty of the ancient treasures.
“I mean, the Sphinx was there!” said Bourbeau, looking into his gesturing hands.
Lance Cpl. Andy Kitfield, a CH-46E Crew Chief from HMM-163 (rein), shared his own thoughts of the event.
“My wife would be so stoked,” said the Sulphur, La., native. “Every time I talk with her, she says she’s so jealous about what we get to do. But this also shows that we’re not just at war with other countries, and it’s important to build relationships and learn from each other.”
Other Marines, like Cpl. Chris Willis of HMM 163 (REIN), offered his prospective on how tourists at the Pyramids may have perceived the coalition fly by.
“There are some people out there today who got to see (Coalition) military assets, and it probably made their day,” said the native Mellow Valley, Ala. “I know it made mine.”
The opportunity to see, in detail, how Coalition Forces are coming together every day in support of one another, was a rare opportunity and one he will remember forever.
“To come to another country and find out how they work is really educational,” explained Hussey. “I mean, who comes to see the pyramids at 300 knots?”
For more information about Exercise Bright Star and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.