22nd MEU intel Marines take to the field

13 Dec 2010 | Sgt. Joshua C. Cox

Marine Air Ground Task Force commanders plan a myriad of operations based on information gathered from the Corps’ intelligence community.  Intelligence Marines are responsible for exploiting image, geographic, human, weather and signals intelligence to support commanders in any contingency.

Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in an Intelligence Interoperability Course in an effort to integrate new attachments to the 22nd MEU and streamline operational capabilities Dec. 13–17, 2010.

Marine detachments from 2nd Radio Battalion and 2nd Intelligence Battalion began training with the MEU, Dec. 1, in preparation for a deployment scheduled for next year.

Their latest exercise began with a tactical movement from the MEU headquarters aboard Camp Lejeune to the Special Operations Training Group compound nearby.  Intelligence Marines loaded critical equipment and supplies into the tactical vehicles before moving out to the field training area for the week-long evolution.

Upon arrival to the SOTG training grounds, the Marines unloaded the equipment and began to set-up an intelligence operations center.  The effort required Marines to assemble large tents, operate military-grade generators and install sensitive communications equipment. 

Other sections convoyed to various locations to continually collect intelligence in the area of operations, a fictitious country called Amberland, and remained in the field living in harsh winter conditions for the duration of the exercise.

“We carry a lot of weight, we’re up a good amount of the time; we don’t get a lot of sleep,” explained Sgt. Joshua A. Wells, a special communications signals collection operator with the 22nd MEU radio reconnaissance team.

Wells, an Allen, Texas, native, said his team serves as “the ears” for the commander in the field.  The radio reconnaissance team embedded in the dense forest covered with camouflage paint, and equipped with a small arsenal of weapons and intelligence exploitation equipment.

Radio reconnaissance’s counterparts in the field were equipped with specialized tactical vehicles, intelligence collection devices and towering antennas.  Teams also consisted of linguists, signals intelligence analysts and other subject-matter-experts used to intercept communications.

Additionally, covert counter and human intelligence specialists seized, detained and interrogated notional persons of interest in order to report critical information to the command operations center, where analysts compartmentalized key information for the commander.

On the second day of the training evolution, the Marines participated in academic sessions addressing MEU structure, capabilities and intelligence-specific topics.  The classes addressed types of missions, like non-combatant evacuations, peace keeping, humanitarian assistance and combat operations, the Marines could face while deployed.

For the remainder of the week in the field, the Marines maintained and monitored equipment, and collected intelligence in fictional scenarios often encountered in real-world situations.  They ate field rations, slept on cots, and tirelessly worked together in an effort to prepare for any situation the MEU could meet in the coming months as a global response force.

Marines like Pfc. Ariel A. Tolentino, a radio operator with the 22nd MEU ground sensor platoon, said the exercise overall was a great way for his team to integrate with the various sections attached to the MEU’s intelligence section.
“So far, I’ve learned a lot,” said Tolentino, while preparing ground sensors used to monitor movement, sounds and vibrations.

Tolentino, an Orlando, Fla., native, said such exercises are important because everyone involved gets a chance to learn about the various agencies and jobs within the command.  For Tolentino, the evolution placed faces with names, which for the Marines, nurtures teamwork, unit cohesion and camaraderie.

The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU recently began an aggressive series of progressively, more complex pre-deployment exercises designed to train and test the MEU's ability to operate as a cohesive and effective fighting force.

The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its command element.

Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps’ smallest Marine Air-Ground Task Force, commanded by a colonel and comprised of approximately 2,200 service members ready to provide immediate response capabilities in a hostile or crisis mission.  While deployed, each MEU also incorporates two KC-130 aircraft available from the continental U.S. to support the unit’s operations abroad.

There are seven U.S. Marine Expeditionary Units located around the world with one in Okinawa, Japan, and three on each continental coast of the United States.

22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit