A Greek town was left scrambled after Marines ate all of the city’s eggs and meat and overindulged on tattoos during a recent training exercise visit with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Marines and sailors visiting the northeastern military port city of Alexandroupoli, Greece, put their appetites to work this past May, as reported by the outlet Greek Reporter in July and later by Task & Purpose, overwhelming local business owners.
“Yesterday, 1,500 people had breakfast in Alexandroupolis and ate eggs, sausages and bacon,” said restaurant owner Giorgos Alavantas, according to Greek City Times. “Yesterday, 6,000–7,000 eggs were needed. In other words, we don’t have eggs.”
Another restaurant owner, Vassilis Siklafidis, told the outlet, “They have gone crazy. They keep telling us that they haven’t eaten nicer meat.”
On May 4, the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock Arlington, attached to the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, arrived in Greece with the 22nd MEU to participate in a dual U.S.-Greek amphibious training called Alexander the Great 2022, according to a Marine Corps press release.
Lt. Col. Christopher Myette, executive officer of the 22nd MEU, said in a press statement, “The training we executed with our NATO Allies in Greece reinforced the close relationship between our two militaries and provided an outstanding opportunity to learn from each other and hone our warfighting skills in a first class training venue.”
Following the exercise, on May 21 the ship docked in Alexandroupoli, Greece, the statement said.
Capt. Jacoby D. Getty, 22nd MEU spokesman, confirmed that “mass amounts of eggs, steak and tattoos were consumed,” by troops visiting the Greek city.
“The 22 MEU works to continuously boost our relationships with our partners and allies,” Getty said. “That comes with the training we conduct, but also when we come into port. Learning about our partners and allies cultures is important and if we are able to boost their economy on a port visit, that’s great too.”
“Members from the Greece embassy passed to our higher headquarters that the Greek leaders were super pleased with the economic boost and that we enjoyed ourselves.”
Nikos Katsoulis, the owner of a local tattoo studio, told the Greek City Times, Marines “travel all over the world, so tattoos are crucial for them to have a memory when they grow older to say that they passed through Greece and I got this tattoo.”
It is common for Marines to explore the area of their port stops, enjoying the hospitality and contributing to the economy of the local town.
Georgios Davis, former president of the Alexandroupoli hospitality association and grill house owner, as reported by the Greek outlet Kathimerini, said, “I serve 16 different types of meat at my restaurant, and they tried them all. They were very polite, they ate everything.”
The outlet also reported U.S. troops ate more than 25,000 eggs during four days at the Greek port.
Building relationships, via eggs
The military relationship between United States and its NATO partner Greece (which joined in 1952) recently has grown closer in part to the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Greek Minister of Defense Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos visited U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon in July where they discussed this among other regional issues.
“I want to thank you for the security assistance that Greece is providing to support Ukraine in the face of Russia’s indefensible assault on its peaceful neighbor,” Austin said to the Greek defense minister, according to a DoD transcript.
During their meeting, Austin also discussed the strategic importance of access to the port of Alexandroupoli, Greece ― the named city where troops only a few months earlier were shelling out for the local cuisine.
“That access allows us to continue to provide military assistance to Ukraine and to counter malign actors and exercise and operate in the Balkans and eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea region,” Austin said according to a DoD statement.
The defense secretary, however, did not mention the incident in Alexandroupoli, Greece, or even how he likes his eggs.
Both the war in Ukraine and recent outbreaks of bird flu have caused the price for merely a dozen eggs to skyrocket worldwide.
While it is presumed the Greek town has restocked on its egg supply since May, rising inflation in Greece may have contributed to costly shopping trips post the Marines’ arrival, with the country’s inflation hitting a nearly 30-year record high in June, according to the Greek Reporter. Even as of July, the cost of dairy and eggs was up 16.4%, according to Greek City Times.
Greece may soon have more control over its economy, however, as it was scheduled to leave a monitoring framework by the European Union on Aug. 20, as reported by Reuters.
The unusual situation in Greece for the MEU is not the first time troops have overwhelmed a foreign port city during an overseas exercise.
Back in 2018, U.S. sailors and Marines made news after they drank much of the beer supply in Iceland’s capital.
Following its time in Greece, the Arlington and the 22nd MEU traveled to other port stops in and around Europe.
“Currently the Kearsarge ARG MEU is conducting an exercise with Finnish military personnel ... focusing on interoperability and building relationships with our future NATO allies and partners,” Getty told Marine Corps Times in mid August.
As one Greek reporter who covered the egg incident wrote, “In the northern Greek port city of Alexandroupoli, May 21, 202, will be remembered as the day the ship appeared.”
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media