CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- "The essential piece of the Expeditionary Strike Group is the relationship between the ARG [amphibious ready group] and MEU [Marine Expeditionary Group]."The preceding quote by Lt. Col. Michael Killion, operations officer for the 22d MEU, sums up the rationale behind the latest in a string of planning and coordination exercises undertaken by the MEU and its Navy brethren.That training was Maritime In-port Group Training, or MGIT, and was conducted at Tactical Training Group, Atlantic aboard Fleet Combat Training Center, Atlantic, Dam Neck, Virginia. The five-day exercise involved the key staff of the 22d MEU and the seven ships with which the MEU will deploy as part of the WASP Expeditionary Strike Group/22d MEU."This [MGIT] was a magnificent training opportunity to weld the Navy-Marine Corps team together," said Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., commanding officer of the 22d MEU.In addition to its Command Element, the 22d MEU consists of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22. The Navy contingent of the WASP ESG/22d MEU consists of the amphibious assault ships WASP, WHIDBEY ISLAND, and SHREVEPORT, cruisers YORKTOWN and LEYTE GULF, destroyer McFAUL, and attack submarine CONNECTICUT.When the WASP ESG/22d MEU deploys early next year, it will be the second time such a unit has deployed. Earlier this year, the California-based Expeditionary Strike Group 1 (of which the 13th MEU is part) deployed and has since gone ashore in Iraq where it is conducting anti-smuggling operations while maritime interception operations are underway in the Persian Gulf.Although ESG 1 and the WASP ESG/22d MEU have essentially the same warfighting organization, the fundamental difference lies in their respective command structures. ESG 1 is commanded by a Navy admiral who maintains operational control over all the Navy and Marine forces, while the WASP ESG/22d MEU maintains the traditional supported/supporting relationship with which MEUs have deployed for years.Because of the additional firepower brought to the organization by the four combatant ships, the WASP ESG/22d MEU has busied itself with more planning exercises than have been seen in the past so as to streamline and MGIT focused on a real-world-based scenario training exercise that involved all elements of the seven-ship, 2,000-Marine, and 3,500-Sailor strong force."The training gave us a chance to look at the procedures we will execute in the future and identify and correct any seams," said Killion, who served with the MEU during its 2002 deployment. "We've had more 'green side' [Marine] play than usual, and this was the first time we've conducted an exercise simultaneously at three different sites."While the senior staff of the WASP ESG/22d MEU conducted their part of the training at Dam Neck, other elements participated at sites aboard Camp Lejeune and at the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Atlantic, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia. MGIT allowed to MEU to war game raids, landing operations, and a wide assortment of the missions it may be required to undertake when abroad."MGIT and exercises like it give us the chance to test stressful scenarios we may face without putting Marines and Sailors in harm's way," said McKenzie.The 'test' for the extensive training conducted thus far will be in December when the WASP ESG/22d MEU conducts its ESG/MEU Exercise (ESG/MEUEX) aboard Eglin Air Force, Florida, and during the MEU's Special Operations Capable Exercise (SOCEX) in January.For more information on the mission, organization, and status of the 22d MEU, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.