USS BATAAN --
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit boarded USS Bataan, USS Whidbey Island and USS Mesa Verde in Morehead City, N.C., March 28, 2011.
The MEU is leaving nearly three months early for their deployment in support of U.S. African and European commands, according to a previous release.
The MEU is America’s “force in readiness,” as proven by the Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU who quickly provided disaster relief in Haiti last year and whose current deployment date came quicker than expected.
“Marines within the MEU bring a tremendous range of capabilities,” said Col. Eric Steidl, the commanding officer of the 22nd MEU. “The PHIBRON and the ships also bring a range of capabilities and when you put those two together you truly have a naval force. They’re capable of doing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and other missions all the way up the spectrum to combat operations.”
Marines and sailors worked tirelessly to prepare themselves and their equipment for the accelerated deployment.
“Anytime we go on deployment we don’t know what we may be asked to do,” said Navy Capt. Steve Yoder, the commanding officer of Amphibious Squadron 6. “A crisis can pop up anytime. We’re a flexible force and we train to that mission set.”
The Marines and sailors not only loaded ships, but they spent most of the day loading equipment and supplies needed throughout the deployment.
Forklifts and cranes moved storage containers while individual Marines carried their packs and seabags up steep, cramped stairwells.
“We’re not at capacity when we don’t have our Marines aboard,” said Navy Capt. Steve Koehler, the commanding officer of USS Bataan. “We’re not full and we don’t feel whole, but once we get the MEU back aboard then everybody’s with us and we’re back as a family.”
All the commotion marked the beginning of an in-depth process, including training exercises, resupplying the ship and meeting necessary certifications, before the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group begins to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Navy and Marines will continue to work together to complete all the necessary training and certifications required before they can move east.
“On the MEU you get to be soldiers of the sea and that is really at the heart of the Marine Corps,” said Steidl. “The 2200 Marines and sailors, from the MEU, are excited to be here and look forward to the deployment and what it might bring.”
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are currently deployed and will continue to conduct a series of progressively complex exercises with Amphibious Squadron 6 and the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group designed to train and test the MEU’s ability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task 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.