Marines hit the ground running in Albania
A strike force of Westcountry Royal Marines are on the frontline of a major operation designed to test their clout in the face of the enemy.
More than 600 commandos, part of the Royal Navy's Response Force Task Group, have landed in the mountainous region of Bis, in Albania.
It is the setting for Albanian Lion, part of the sprawling Cougar 13 deployment led by Devonport based HMS Bulwark, the Royal Navy's flagship.
Sergeant Chris Davies, 30, from 30 Cdo, the Plymouth-based information exploitation group, said the scene was set for an exciting exercise.
"This is the second time I have trained in Albania and the mixture of heat, altitude and mountainous terrain make it the ideal training environment for the Royal Marines.
"We are all rearing to go and looking forward to a high intensity, action-packed few days as we undertake Albanian Lion with our colleagues from the Albanian armed forces."
The first men to arrive at the scene ahead of the exercise getting under way in earnest next week were from 42 Cdo in Plymouth, who stepped off their plane and immediately set about acclimatising to the rugged conditions and heat.
They have already undertaken a series of river crossings, abseils and carried out mock assaults on enemy positions – all at heights ranging between 4,500 and 6,000ft.
While the training is under way on the ground, fleet flagship HMS Bulwark, as well as HMS Illustrious, and their embarked Royal Marines and Westcountry-based air crews from the Fleet Air Arm, will be travelling towards their position.
Once assembled in the Adriatic, off the coast of Vlore, Albania, they will work with Albania's armed forces to put the Lead Commando Group ashore as part of a "high tempo" exercise.
Albanian Lion is the first in a series of exercises making up Cougar 13, a long planned deployment involving thousands of Royal Navy personal.