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Atlas Hinge

Exercise Atlas Hinge is an annual bilateral exercise.

Assault Craft Unit Four, Detachment C supported Task Force 61, an amphibious ready group (ARG) on routine deployment in the Mediterranean during 1996, with their high-performance Air Cushioned Landing Craft (LCAC). During exercises with Tunisia, Egypt and other Mediterranean nations, the LCACs demonstrated their abilities in amphibious warfare. Amphibious exercise Atlas Hinge at Cape De Darat, Tunisia, was the first test of timing for the LCACs. In a real-world operation arriving on the beach too early could expose the craft to friendly fire, but arriving too late would increase the threat of enemy opposition. So during work-ups, the LCAC navigators and USS Wasp's (LHD 1) Combat Information Center (CIC) watchstanders practiced working as a team to keep the LCACs on track and on time during the assault phase of Atlas Hinge. During the exercise, the LCACs demonstrated their flexibility by transiting over land as well as sea. This all-terrain capability allows vehicles and other rolling stock to be off-loaded on suitable ground, rather than risk being stuck in the soft sand of a beach.

Exercise Atlas Hinge 1997, conducted near Cap Serrat in Tunisia, Africa, was a six-day joint-training exercise with the Tunisian military. The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Special Operations Capable (SOC) completed the first major exercise of its routine six-month deployment July 27.

In unfamiliar mountainous terrain, the MEU exercised the full scope of a Marine air and ground task force as the ground- combat element, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8 conducted a heliborne assault into a mountain landing zone and an amphibious landing using all of its assets and attachments. Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266, the aviation-combat element of the MEU, provided transportation to the assault area as well as air cover and fire support for the amphibious landing. Marines and Sailors from MEU Service Support Group 24 provided logistical support throughout the operation. They maintained vehicles and provided rations and water to tactical units ashore. They also used the reverse osmosis water purification unit to supplement the water supply.

After the tactical portion of the exercise, the MEU Marines and Sailors cross-trained with the Tunisians. The combat engineer detachment's cross-training covered mines and booby traps, while the BLT command post-briefed the Tunisians on capabilities of amphibious assault vehicles, command vehicles and high-mobility multi-wheeled vehicles. The MEU's tank platoon also trained with Tunisian armored units. Additionally, MEU medical personnel toured a Tunisian field medical facility and learned about their medical practices.

In September 1999 the 26th MEU participated in Exercises Atlas Hinge in Tunisia and Northern Approach in Turkey.

In September 2000 the 26th MEU conducted Adriatic presence operations during the election crisis in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The MEU also participated in exercises Croatian Phibex 2000, the first ever bi-lateral exercise between the Marine Corps and the Croatian Armed Forces, and Atlas Hinge in Tunisia. The annual bilateral Atlas Hinge exercise, held Sept. 15-20, 2000, involved about 1,500 U.S. Marines and 700 Tunisian service members.

With the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit/Special Operations Capable embarked, the ARG/MEU team participated in several international amphibious exercises with the Spanish navy; live-fire exercises in Capo Teulada, Sardinia; and Exercise Atlas Hinge 2001 in Tunisia.

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