US, French Marines begin exercise with friendly competition, social
CAMP LA BROCHE, New Caledonia -- Marines and French Marine paratroopers began Exercise Croix de Sud with a day of playing soccer and a lunch social at Camp la Broche, New Caledonia, Oct. 13.
The Marines are with 1st platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, which is currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program. The French paratroopers are with 8th Marine Infantry Paratrooper Regiment, based out of Castres, France.
With each passing minute, the social and language barriers seemed to dissipate. Service members, whose homes are separated by thousands of miles, suddenly found themselves shoulder-to-shoulder, laughing, competing, sharing stories, and becoming friends.
"The purpose of the day was to break the ice and get to know each other," said French Marine Cpl. Mickael le Roux, a paratrooper with the French regiment. "There is no better way we know of than a good game of soccer and breaking bread."
The day, in fact, began with a lopsided French victory in a friendly soccer match hosted by the French Marines.
"The first game was very one-sided," said Lance Cpl. Justin A. St. John, a rifleman with 2/3. "After the first game, we integrated the teams and played again."
The integration was seamless, and the two countries' Marines appeared as if they had played together for years, passing and scoring with ease.
"The game was a lot of fun to play with the French Marines," said St. John. "They ended up teaching us all a thing or two about soccer."
After the matches, the teams met at the mess hall, where the French hosted a barbecue social.
"We talked a lot about each others' culture," said Lance Cpl. Colton C. Campbell, a rifleman with 2/3. "I've always had questions about the French and their customs and everyday life. It was very interesting learning we have a lot in common."
As the Marines conversed with one another, they realized that not only are their cultures alike, but their experiences within their respective services are too.
"We compared stories of our boot camps, infantry training and deployments. We learned we each had very similar times," said St. John.
After conversing and learning more about each other, it was time to sit down and share a meal.
"We served the Marines grilled chicken, sausage and a French type of rice," said le Roux. "It is a meal we love, and the Marines really seemed to like it as well."
When all was said and done, two completely different cultures went from not knowing anything about each other to calling each other by name and sharing laughter.
"This was only the first day of Exercise Croix de Sud, and we all had a great time," said Campbell. "I can't wait to train with the French Marines and learn a thing or two as well as teach some tactics to them."