A look at the 26th MEU(SOC)''s Navy/Marine Corps Team
By Cpl. Derek A. Shoemake
| October 06, 2000
USS SAIPAN, Adriatic Sea --
USS Saipan is not the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)'s only partner in the nation's premiere Navy/Marine Corps Team.The ship is one of three Naval vessels within Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) Four, the unit that maintains tactical control of those Navy counterparts that work alongside the 26th MEU(SOC).The smallest ship within PHIBRON Four is USS Ashland (LSD 48), an amphibious warfare ship designed to transport Marine and their equipment throughout the world and to launch and support assault landing craft and helicopters during amphibious operations. USS Ashland, the last of her class to be commissioned, is the home to 26th MEU(SOC) Battalion Landing Team 2/2 units Echo Company, M1-A1 Abraham's Battle Tank platoon, two Amphibious Assault Vehicle Platoons and an Obstacle Clearing Detachment from the Engineer Platoon.While larger than Ashland, USS Austin (LPD 4) is called the "middle deck," as it as not as large as USS Saipan. The Austin is considered one of the most versatile ships in the U.S. Naval fleet. While her primary mission is similar to the Ashland, her secondary mission is evacuation and civilian disaster relief. Most of the Marines from the 26th MEU(SOC)'s MEU Service Support Group 26 are embarked aboard Austin, as well as BLT 2/2's Golf Company.USS Saipan (LHA 2) is the flagship of PHIBRON Four. The United States maintains the largest and most capable force in the world, and Saipan sails proudly on its front line. The other units of 26th MEU(SOC), to include the Command Element and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264, are embarked aboard this vessel.Together, the 26th MEU(SOC), PHIBRON Four, USS Saipan, USS Austin and USS Ashland patrol the entire Mediterranean region, and using those three ships, are ready and able to respond to numerous different situations at one time.