MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) completed its Amphibious Ready Group (ARG)/MEU Exercise (ARG/MEU Ex) with the U.S. Navy Sailors and ships of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 6 off the East Coast Nov. 13, 2013, as part of the MEU’s preparation for its 2014 deployment.
For three weeks, the MEU practiced conducting raids, evacuations and other tactical operations from the USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), which compose the Bataan ARG.
“The goal of ARG/MEU Ex is for the Marine Corps and Navy to work together while being evaluated as a whole for the first time,” said Capt. Ross Sanders, 22nd MEU assistant air officer and native of Hoover, Ala.
Throughout the exercise, the Bataan ARG and MEU were evaluated by Special Operations Training Group (SOTG) on their abilities to plan, prepare and execute missions within the MEU’s unique and compressed six-hour planning process. This means the MEU is required to complete its planning process and begin its missions within six hours of receiving an order, as opposed to the 24-hour cycle used by the majority of the Marine Corps. The MEU was also judged on its ability to operate as a full Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF), which is a scalable, self-sustaining expeditionary force. These skills will be further refined during the MEU’s next major at-sea period, composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX).
“The MEU has 12 mission essential tasks that cover the range of employment for the MEU while deployed,” explained Col. Eric Steidl, SOTG officer in charge and native of Windsor, Col. “So during the six-month pre-deployment training program (PTP), SOTG spends a lot of time on small-unit training and special skills. As we get towards the end of the PTP, ARG/MEU Ex, COMPTUEX, we focus more on MAGTF-level execution of those 12 tasks.”
The MEU’s overall PTP can be viewed as a crawl, walk, run process, said Sanders. The MEU’s Realistic Urban Training (RUT) exercise and PHIBRON/MEU Integration Training (PMINT) exercise constituted the MEU’s walk phase.
“ARG/MEU Ex is more of a light jog,” said Sanders. “This training evolution has a higher tempo and is slightly more complex because one event affects other events. It sort of puts into practice what the Marine Corps calls the single battle concept; the idea that events in one objective area have ramifications across the entire theater that you’re operating in.”
During the exercise, the MEU executed aerial strikes on targets that were positioned to attack other areas where MEU Marines were already working, explained Sanders. Furthermore, those strikes resulted from information gathered during a previous mission.
“I view ARG/MEU Ex as the preparation for COMPTUEX,” Sanders continued. “They shouldn’t be that different. Because we’re more prepared, COMPTUEX should just be smoother.”
“The MEU’s PTP is not necessarily a dress rehearsal, because we can’t predict the operational environment the MEU will be put into,” said Steidl, who previously commanded the 22nd MEU. “The MEU’s PTP, RUT, PMINT, ARG/MEU Ex, is designed to give it exposure to the tasks it may encounter. It’s meant to build its rapid response capability as a MAGTF.”
The MEU is scheduled to deploy in early 2014 to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility with the Bataan ARG as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations.
“I think the MEU is well on track,” commented Steidl. “The ARG/MEU team has the fundamentals it will need. All that’s left is fine-tuning.”