COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The residents of Columbia, S.C. and surrounding communities have grown accustomed to the dark green helicopters and 'hoo-ahs' originating from the Army's nearby Fort Jackson.
However, for several weeks in November, they will observe gray Marine helicopters flying overheard, see the Corps' new digital camouflage uniforms, and hear the 'ooh rahs' of the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) as the unit conducts its Training in an Urban Environment Exercise (TRUEX).
Approximately 750 Marines and Sailors from the MEU Command Element and its three major subordinate elements will participate in the 16-day training exercise that is designed to prepare the unit to operate in urban terrain during its upcoming deployment.
During TRUEX, the MEU will conduct a variety of missions, with special emphasis on perfecting the skills of the unit's Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF) during several precision raids on sites throughout the Columbia area.
"TRUEX is one of the greatest training opportunities in the Marine Corps," said Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., the 22d MEU's commanding officer, addressing the exercise's participants in the opening days of TRUEX. "We have good SOPs [Standard Operating Procedures], good plans, and I have every confidence in your abilities."
In addition to three raid-based scenario training exercises (STXs), the MEU will conduct extensive fast-rope training, a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) mission, helicopter escort of ground convoys, and a host of other missions tied to operating in urban terrain.
Col. Victor J. Riley, the officer-in-charge of the II Marine Expeditionary Force's Special Operations Training Group (SOTG) who oversees all East Coast MEUs pre-deployment training exercises, reminded the 22d MEU's Marines and Sailors of the importance of the training.
"This is your last chance to cross the "t's" and dot the "i's" before your remaining exercises [the Expeditionary Strike Group and Special Operations Capable Exercises]," said Riley. "You can get your SOPs and planning tightened because there are not many more opportunities left [before the unit undertakes its final certification exercise]."
The Marine Corps has been conducting TRUEXs throughout the United States since 1985, and the 22d MEU specifically has undertaken the exercise in Atlanta, Savannah, Miami, and Philadelphia, among other locations. Columbia was the site of the 24th MEU's TRUEX in 1999.
In addition to its Command Element, the 22d MEU consists of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22. The unit is scheduled to deploy early next year aboard the amphibious assault ships WASP, WHIDBEY ISLAND, and SHREVEPORT as part of the WASP ESG/22d MEU.
For more information on the mission, organization and status of the 22d MEU, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.