MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The final elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit recently returned ashore after completing a two-week training exercise designed to flex the MEU's air, sea and ground capabilities, and to enhance interoperability with Navy ships and personnel.
The Composite Training Unit Exercise, or COMPTUEX, allowed the 22nd MEU a last chance to integrate its subordinate elements into a cohesive fighting force before the II Marine Expeditionary Force Special Operations Training Group officially evaluates the unit's deployment readiness in June.
"We had an overwhelming amount of success with command and control of forces ashore as well as communications with all units," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Rick Tyrrell, the 22nd MEU Operations Chief.
Key training events during the exercise included both motorized and mechanized ground-based raids, a long-range helicopter-borne raid, an embassy reinforcement and a simulated non-combatant evacuation operation.
The motorized raid had Marines from Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT) and Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Platoon, as well as Company K, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (BLT 3/8), coming ashore with their humvees and Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) to attack and destroy a simulated terrorist training camp.
The mechanized raid involved Marines from Co. L, BLT 3/8, along with a supporting force of tanks and amphibious assault vehicles, battling simulated insurgents in a Military Operations in Urban Terrain training facility commonly known as MOUT town.
For the long-range raid, helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 reinforced (HMM-261) transported Marines from Co. I, BLT 3/8, to a MOUT facility aboard Fort Bragg, near Fayetteville, N.C.
The long-range helicopter raid is one of the most difficult missions for the MEU to plan and perform, due to the extensive coordination required, said Capt. Garth Burnett, the air mission commander for the raid.
The primary planning factor is ensuring the helicopters can get enough fuel to make it to their destination and return safely, he said.
Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron 252 (VMGR-252) established a rapid ground refueling station part way to the target, to make sure the aircraft could make the distance.
Burnett said because of the level of integration between the aviators flying to the raid site and the grunts executing the raid, the mission came off without a hitch.
"If we hadn't had all the previous experience working together, we wouldn't have been able to do that," he said.
At one point during the exercise, members of the MEU's command element went ashore to coordinate support with a simulated US Embassy. The "embassy's" security was later reinforced by Marines from Battery B, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment.
The exercise also gave the pilots of HMM-261(rein) a chance to get both day and night qualifications for landing aircraft on Navy ships, a necessary process that gives the pilots the continued training they need to execute such a challenging task.
For the exercise, the MEU was embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge; the dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall; and the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.
The three ships are part of the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group, which also includes the guided missile destroyer USS Porter, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg, the guided missile frigate USS Carr and a fast-attack submarine.
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit consists of its Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261(Reinforced) and Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22. For more information on the MEU's upcoming deployment, visit the unit's website at www.22meu.usmc.mil.