NAS ROTA, SPAIN --
As America’s Force in Readiness, Marine Expeditionary Units circle the globe ready to respond to a crisis abroad. When things become hostile in a foreign country, it becomes increasingly important to protect American citizens and evacuate them to safety.
Marines and sailors with the 22nd Expeditionary Unit conducted a noncombatant evacuation operation exercise aboard Naval Air Station Rota, Spain, July 7-9, 2011.
“The opportunity for 22d MEU to conduct Non Combatant Evacuation (NEO) training at this point in our deployment was a huge success given real world events across the Mediterranean and Middle East,” said Col. Eric Steidl, 22nd MEU commanding officer.
Every NEO is different, Steidl continued, there are common attributes and procedures, and this exercise provided us a training venue where we could work on the basics and complex aspects.
The purpose of a NEO is to safely evacuate American citizens and their allies from potentially hostile territories.
“This exercises an evacuation of American citizens from a country the United States has deemed dangerous,” said Lance Cpl. Donald Love III, a military police specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 22, 22nd MEU. “We will help as many as we can, whether they’re tourists, civilian contractors, or Americans working in the embassy.”
During this process, evacuees go through a hasty search for weapons and contraband before they enter an Evacuation Control Center. Once in the ECC, they go through a more extensive search before the Marines process them for evacuation. Medical personnel are also on site to treat individuals in need.
During the check-in process, evacuees receive an identification bracelet and stand by for evacuation. During this scenario, evacuees went to the USS Mesa Verde, and the ship would then deliver them directly to a safe haven in an allied nation.
22nd MEU role players from USS Mesa Verde, and NAS Rota were evacuees from the “Federal Republic of Orange”, a false country used only for the scenario. As the evacuation scenario developed, role players became hostile at the gate, demanding evacuation from the country. They simulated a riot, breaking through the first barrier. Marines employed non-lethal force to drive the crowd back to the entry control point.
With the crowd back outside the outer perimeter, a simulated vehicle borne improvised explosive device detonated, resulting in several casualties. The mass casualty team quickly responded, secured the area and treated the wounded before evacuating them for follow-on care.
The NEO team is an important part of the MEU as a way to provide further protection to American citizens around the world.
“At anytime a MEU can be called to conduct a NEO,” added Love. “If there is a possible hostile environment due to riots, protests, and Americans are still present in those countries, then we would need to go get them. We are the force of choice.”
Additionally, the MEU trained alongside Marines and Sailors with CTF-68 who may support NEO missions, representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, and some of our Spanish counterparts from our recent amphibious bilateral exercise, added Steidl. “In short, the safe and successful execution of this training further honed the wide range of capabilities inherent to 22nd MEU,” continued Steidl.
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are currently deployed with Amphibious Squadron 6 aboard the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group serving as a flexible, formidable and potent force who continues to train and improve their capability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task Force.
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission, capable force, commanded by Col. Eric J. Steidl and comprised of an Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); a Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; a Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its Command Element.
Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps' smallest permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force, and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response to a hostile environment or crisis.