Photo Information

Captain Pete Lisowski, a CH-53E Super Stallion transport helicopter pilot with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261, performs preflight operations checks on a Super Stallion during the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit's Certification Exercise aboard the USS Kearsarge, June 20, 2007. The Marines and sailors of HMM-261 are scheduled to deploy as the Aviation Combat Element of the 22nd MEU later this summer. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Peter R. Miller)::n::

Photo by Cpl. Peter R. Miller

22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit completes Certification Exercise

26 Jun 2007 | Cpl. Peter R. Miller

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) recently completed an array of missions to counter notional 'terrorist' activities in and around the Camp Lejeune area to prove it meets the requirements of a deployable Marine Air Ground Task Force.

The unit used both land- and sea-based assets to accomplish real-time missions including mechanized raids, motorized raids, and helicopter-borne raids.

The MEU also executed an 'embassy' reinforcement operation, a mass casualty response scenario and a simulated non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO).

The two-week-long certification exercise, dubbed CERTEX, was the final obstacle standing between the MEU and its pending deployment.

"As the graduation exercise of the predeployment training program, it certifies the MEU ...as interoperable and ready for deployment with their counterpart Navy Strike Group," said Col. Doug Stilwell, the 22nd MEU commanding officer.

The exercise was set in motion June 18 with a surface raid conducted by elements of the MEU's Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (BLT 3/8).

Some of the raid-force assets launched in series from the decks of the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group's three amphibious assault ships; the USS Kearsarge, USS Gunston Hall, and USS Ponce.

Other raid and support forces came ashore with vehicles and equipment aboard landing craft, air-cushioned (LCAC), as well as landing craft, utility (LCU).

While elements of BLT 3/8 pushed inland and pacified 'terrorist threats', other elements of the BLT helped Combat Logistics Battalion 22 (CLB-22) establish a toehold for MEU authority with a forward operating base (FOB) on Onslow Beach.

With infantry patrols providing support and security, CLB-22 took control of the shore for the influx of mission essential personnel and equipment.

Meanwhile, the MEU's Command Element stayed aboard the USS Kearsarge with its Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced).

The squadron used the ship's flight deck as a sea-based airfield while the Command Element provided tactical control of all operations.

Within the MEU's command and control hub, joint Naval and Marine forces worked to plan and launch each mission within a short designated time limit. For days, simultaneous missions ran around the clock.

Overall, CERTEX resulted in greater interoperability and integration within the Marine and Navy elements, said Stilwell. The exercise provided an opportunity to put final touches on logistical and operational strategies.

During the two-week exercise, Marines from II Marine Expeditionary Force's Special Operations Training Group evaluated the unit's 2,200 Marines and sailors on their ability to successfully execute any of 23 different missions with which the MEU could be tasked.

"The Marines and Sailors of the MEU should be extremely proud of what they have accomplished throughout the predeployment training program and especially of their performance during CERTEX. I am eminently confident that we will accomplish any assigned mission during the deployment with great success," said Stilwell.

Now that the MEU has met all the requirements to be considered deployable, Marines are able to concentrate on the upcoming deployment

"I hope I'm ready. This will be my first deployment, so I'm anxious to deploy and see how it is," said intelligence analyst Lance Cpl. Tyrone Carter.

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; Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element.

The 22nd MEU is scheduled to deploy later this summer as the landing force of the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group. To learn more about the MEU and its upcoming deployment, visit the unit's Web site athttp://www.22meu.usmc.mil.

22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit