MCCRADY TRAINING CENTER, S.C. -- More than a dozen news organizations and scores of local residents recently gathered in Rock Hill, S.C. to witness the Marines of the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) sharpen their urban combat skills.The MEU is in South Carolina conducting its Training in an Urban Environment Exercise (TRUEX), a standard component of all MEUs' pre-deployment training programs. TRUEX is a two-week training evolution that reinforces for the MEU the importance of operating in urban terrain, and in the past, the 22d MEU has conducted these exercises in Atlanta, Richmond, Va., Philadelphia, and Miami, among other cities."Most people in the world live in urban areas near the water," said Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., commanding officer of the 22d MEU, addressing reporters prior to the commencement of a mock assault near downtown Rock Hill. "These are areas where will be no doubt find ourselves operating, so this training is of the utmost importance."The training in Rock Hill was conducted on an unused textile mill, and brought together the MEU's Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF) and the helicopters of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), the MEU's aviation combat element."This is the 'walk' phase of a crawl, walk, run process," said McKenzie, a 1979 Citadel graduate who assumed command of the MEU in October 2002. "We're looking to ensure procedural correctness in our tactics. These Marines have trained hard in their individual skills, and now we're putting it all together. After all, our superiority lies in the individual Marine, not in technology."One such Marine is Pvt. 1st Class Nicholas Kenney, a rifleman with Charlie Co., Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, and a member of the MSPF's security platoon.While members of the MEU Command Element's Force Reconnaissance Platoon, the core of the MSPF, fast-roped onto the roof of the five-story building from CH-53E Super Stallion and CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, Kenney's platoon landed on a nearby parking lot and promptly established blocking positions around the building. From the time the first helicopters appeared overhead until the building was declared secure and the forces successfully withdrawn, a mere 40 minutes had passed."This is the most realistic training we've had so far," said Kenney, a Pueblo, Colo. native who just passed his one-year mark in the Corps. "There's nothing like being in a real city with the people and cars and everything around you. It's as close to the real thing we can get, and that makes us that much better."A squad leader in Kenney's platoon agreed with the younger Marines assessment of the training."The [urban] training is much better out here," said Sgt. Chris Bancroft, an infantryman from Hillsdale, Mich., commenting on training in areas other than Camp Lejeune. "It's an unknown environment we've never went in before so it makes the mission that much harder, just like the real thing.""The mission went off exactly as planned," continued Bancroft, commenting on the mission's success. "We had walked through it and planned enough that we knew exactly what to do and when to do it."The training in Rock Hill was the result of months of intense preparation on the part of the MSPF's Marines and Sailors. In addition to specialized courses offered to individual Marines and the elements of the unit, the MSPF conducted similar missions during the MSPF Interoperability and the Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON)/MEU Integration Training (PMINT) exercises in recent months.A day before the mock assault in Rock Hill, the entire MSPF conducted fast-rope training atop a large building near downtown Columbia that also drew reporters and curious on-lookers. With the training in Rock Hill and Columbia complete, the focus of TRUEX turned to several situational training exercises that will further hone the MSPF's warfighting skills and that one day soon may be put to use in a real world operation."These are very trying times for our nation," said Rock Hill's mayor, Doug Echols, in a joint press conference held with Col. McKenzie. "Our men and women in uniform deserve the very best training opportunities and we [Rock Hill] are proud to do our part in supporting this training."In addition to the its Command Element, BLT 1/6, and HMM-266 (Rein), the 22d MEU also consists of MEU Service Support Group 22. The unit is scheduled to deploy early next year aboard the amphibious ships WASP, WHIDBEY ISLAND, and SHREVEPORT as part of the WASP Expeditionary Strike Group/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.