In direct defiance to China’s claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea, the U.S Navy (USN) and British Royal Marines Commandos conducted joint training close to the disputed island chain.

A Royal Marine Boarding Team from 42 Commando’s Juliet Company boarded and searched the USNS Guadalupe, a replenishment ship assigned to the 7th Fleet. The Commandos thoroughly checked and cleared the American ship, simulating a real-world scenario where pirates have captured a commercial or military vessel.

“This was a valuable exercise for us, keeping our integrated Royal Navy and Royal Marines boarding team sharp and ready to deliver any mission assigned to them,” said Cmdr. Conor O’Neill, the commanding officer of HMS Montrose. “That we were able to achieve this training, and the replenishment drills afterwards, is testament to the close working relationship between the Royal and United States Navies, both in the Pacific and globally.”

From the American point of view, Eric Naranjo, a civilian mariner chief mate with USNS Guadalupe, said the joint training “helps expand our capabilities and I believe it helps them, as well. It’s important because if you don’t practice these scenarios, you won’t have the skills necessary to succeed when the time comes.” The Royal Marines are famous for their arduous selection process and warfighting skills in arctic and mountain warfare environments.

As an amphibious light infantry unit, the Royal Marines Commandos are organized around the 3 Commando Brigade, comprised of three Commandos (40, 42, and 45), which are essentially battalion-sized formations. Recently, the Royal Marines Commando underwent a significant structural change. In response to the increased importance the Royal Navy, which the Royal Marines fall under, places on anti-piracy, anti-drug, and maritime interdiction operations, 42 Commando was reorganized into a Maritime Operations Commando (MOC). In its MOC duties, 42 Commando is tasked with fleet protection and maritime counter-terrorism operations. The unit has organic vessels with which to conduct Visit Board Search and Seizure missions and around 400 men.

As a further testament of the superb operational relationship between the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy, this was their third joint deployment since December. In December, American and British submarines, with the addition of Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force, initiated a large scale anti-submarine warfare exercise in the Pacific Ocean. In January, USN and Royal Navy ships conducted joint patrols in the South China Sea.