NORFOLK, VA -- The passageways and classrooms of the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group (EWTG) building aboard Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia were recently clogged with Marine and Navy officers undergoing the initial stages of preparing for their deployment with, or in support of, the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
Attendees of the 22d MEU's and Amphibious Squadron 8's Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) Workshop recently spent five days at EWTG striving to enhance coordination and planning procedures between the MEU staffs and their Navy counterparts. Assembled were the primary staffs from the MEU and its major subordinate elements along with key leadership from the Navy shipping with which the MEU will deploy next summer.
One noticeable difference between this conference and ARG/MEU conferences of the past was the significant increase in the number of Navy officers present. This was due to the transformation of the typical amphibious ready group/MEU (ARG/MEU) to the ESG, a concept that will deploy additional combatant ships with the amphibious ships bearing the MEU.
The 22d MEU will deploy with its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2d Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 162 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22. Amphibious Squadron 8 will be composed of the landing ships Saipan, Ponce, and Gunston Hall as well as the cruiser Philippine Sea, destroyer Gonzalez, frigate Nicholas, and submarine Miami. Collectively, the MEU and amphibious squadron will be referred to as the ESG.
"This [the conference] will build the synergy to drive us forward," said Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., commanding officer of the 22d MEU, addressing the assembled conference attendees. "The relationships we begin to establish now are important because lives will depend on our ability to communicate."
By bringing together the battle staffs of the ESG, a crucial first step was taken in building a cohesive and effective team. Leadership from the MEU and the various ships of the ESG presented briefs on their missions, organization, and capabilities.
"Understanding each other and what you bring to the table is the cornerstone for success of the ESG," said Rear Admiral Michael P. Nowakowski, Commander, Amphibious Group Two.
Special attention was placed on refinement of the Rapid Response Planning Process (R2P2), the means by which the ESG's staff will plan for and respond to the various threats and missions they may soon face. Ideally, using R2P2, a plan of action can be drafted and ready for execution within six hours from the time a warning order is received.
After two days of presentations that included briefs by a variety of agencies and organizations the ESG may encounter when abroad, the conference broke down into four groups. The workshops included a Commanders' Workshop, Senior Enlisted Symposium, Embarkation Planning Workshop, and a Raid Force Commander/Mission Planners Workshop.
This final group participated in two situational training exercises (STXs) that served as both a training and learning tool for mission planners and later, joined the rest of the attendees for a tour of the ships comprising the ESG. The conference culminated in a full-mission profile STX that brought to bear the skills learned by mission planners on previous days.
"We don't know what your future holds," said Maj. Gen. Henry P. Osman, Commanding General of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, in his comments to the conference, "but it doesn't matter because you have to get ready to respond when the time comes."
For the ESG's newly-formed 'blue-green' team, the five-day conference fulfilled a vital role in ensuring the MEU would indeed be ready.
For more information on the 22d MEU, visit the unit's website at www.22meu.usmc.mil.