CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit recently wrapped up its first major field exercise after nearly a month of training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
The primary purpose of the 20-day training exercise was to begin forging a cohesive unit among the forces which come from throughout the II Marine Expeditionary Force to make up the 22nd MEU. For most of these platoons and detachments, their time at A.P. Hill was their first opportunity to serve along the other Marines and Sailors with whom they will deploy next year.
"The month of training at Fort A.P. Hill provided us with an opportunity to focus on the 'TEAM' of the battalion landing team," said Lt. Col. Asad A. Khan, commanding officer of the 1st Bn., 6th Marines, whose unit makes up the bulk of the 22nd MEU.
Khan's normal force of approximately 800 Marines and Sailors has been reinforced by upward of 400 additional and collectively the unit is referred to as a Battalion Landing Team.
"The Marines from all units within the BLT performed superbly," said Khan, elaborating on the training. "We qualified all our crew-served weapons, did squad, platoon, and company-level live fire maneuver ranges, and began doing live fire at night."
In addition to live fire and maneuver training, BLT 1/6 and MEU Service Support Group 22, the MEU's combat service support element, undertook a variety of training scenarios. Among these exercises was a mechanized raid, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, noncombatant evacuation operation, multiple mass casualty drills, and helicopter raid, among others.
"This training allowed all the BLT units to establish a solid foundation and SOP so that we can better integrate with the 22nd MEU and the entire (Marine Air-Ground Task Force)."
Working with the other major subordinate elements of the 22nd MEU was a key element of the training at Fort A.P. Hill, and this occasion marked the first time all four elements of the MEU worked together in a field environment.
"During the field exercises we used some of the Command Element's intelligence assets to develop a better picture of the battle space," said Khan, commenting on the interaction between his and the other major elements of the MEU. "In terms of logistics, the interaction and dependence we had with MSSG-22 was awesome.
"Normally, an infantry unit does not receive the type of direct combat service support that the Marines of MSSG-22 provided us. Likewise, the opportunity to fly missions with the MEU's aviation combat element (Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced)) has set us further in training than I expected."
At the grass roots level, the Marines and Sailors from the different MSEs supported one another in a variety of ways. For example, during the mass casualty drills undertaken by both BLT 1/6 and MSSG-22, the units traded off the roles of security and caregivers, and during the NEO exercise, BLT 1/6 provided security while the MSSG-22 processed 'evacuees.'
The training at A.P. Hill will serve as a foundation for future success in the 22nd MEU's upcoming pre-deployment training. This includes four sea-based exercises involving multiple field training scenarios, urban combat training in Columbia, S.C., and numerous other training evolutions on and around Camp Lejeune that will prepare the unit for any contingency when it is forward-deployed.
The 22nd MEU is scheduled to deploy early next year aboard the USS Wasp, Shreveport, and Whidbey Iisland as part of the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group/22nd MEU.
For more information on the organization, mission and status of the 22nd MEU, visit the unit's website at www.22meu.usmc.mil.