MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
U.S. Marines and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted their first at-sea exercise of their pre-deployment training period (PTP) with Amphibious Squadron 4 (PHIBRON-4) during PHIBRON-MEU Integration Training (PMINT) in the Atlantic Ocean, from July 8-17, 2017.
PMINT is the first step in the pre-deployment cycle for the MEU. It gives Marines a chance to become familiar with the ships they will be working and living on during their deployment. The training took place aboard the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), USS New York (LPD 21), and USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41).
“A lot of our Marines haven’t been on a ship before, so this is a good exercise to get their feet wet and show them what it’s like,” said Sgt. Wesley E. Huntress Jr., a crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 Reinforced (VMM-162 (REIN)), 26th MEU.
During PMINT, Marines integrated in every aspect with the Navy personnel and its ships, testing basic proficiency and identifying any potential issues during the early phases of the pre-deployment training. This type of training between the services is vital to refine operations prior to deploying to the 5th Fleet and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility where they will maintain a forward deployed.
“Though we will do more complex operations during our later two at-sea periods, I would argue that PMINT is the most important of the three,” said Col. Farrell J. Sullivan, the commanding officer of the 26th MEU. “If we don’t get PMINT right, we will be playing catch-up throughout our PTP instead of looking forward and building our competency.”
The MEU executed both surface and air operations as a Navy-Marine Corps team including amphibious raids as well as day and night flight operations. This allowed the unit to learn and refine its standard operating procedures. While on ship, Marines also performed fast-rope training to enhance the MEU’s capabilities during deployment. Because this was the first time executing operations at sea for many Marines of the 26th MEU, ensuring safe practices of major training evolutions was a key training priority.
“Working in and around amphibious war ships at sea is dangerous business,” said Sullivan. “Every individual needs to be laser-focused on how they support the overall missions. If not, bad things happen. Individuals and units must operate within their capabilities.”
To conclude the training, the Marines made an amphibious landing on Onslow Beach via landing crafts. The unit returned from PMINT with a foundation that will prepare the Marines for realistic urban training, the next step in the PTP.
“We demonstrated proficiency in some areas, but learned more,” said Sullivan. “No doubt the Marines and Sailors exceeded my expectations, but more importantly, they possess an earnest drive to capture where we need to improve, develop and refine our operating procedures.”