ABOARD USS KEARSARGE -- The Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) passed through the Suez Canal April 22, marking a significant milestone in MEU’s deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
After spending the first month of its deployment crossing the Atlantic Ocean and operating in the Mediterranean Sea, the 26th MEU (SOC) passed through what many have come to call the “gateway to combat,” entering into U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility.
"This is an AOR that is wrought with uncertainty and a full range of challenges and missions that this Marine expeditionary unit is prepared for,” said Col. Thomas F. Qualls, the 26th MEU (SOC) commanding officer.
The MEU is currently in theater reserve status, meaning the Marines and Sailors here could be called to execute a wide variety of tactical missions in support of ongoing or contingency operations.
“The inherent ability of the Marine Expeditionary Unit to be a flexible and adaptable force will certainly come into play,” Qualls said.
Until a mission call is received, the MEU will continue an aggressive schedule that includes unit training and bi-lateral exercises with U.S. allies in the War on Terror.
The significance of the Suez Canal transit was felt at all levels within the MEU as hundreds of Marines and sailors made their way to the outside of the ships to take in the many scenes of the Suez.
"The anticipation that we're actually getting to where we are going is more realistic to me now that we're seeing people and land and sand and dirt,” said an airframes mechanic with HMM-162 (Reinforced).
The more than 2,000 Marines and sailors of the MEU are currently scheduled to remain in Central Command’s AOR for approximately four months before transitioning back to their home base in Camp Lejeune, N.C.
To follow the 26th MEU (SOC) throughout deployment, log onto www.26meu.usmc.mil.