MSSG-26 expands capabilities at A.P. Hill

23 Oct 2004 | Sgt. Roman Yurek

Three tribes in a troubled region of the world are forced from their homes due to intense fighting between rival warlords.  As a result, the Marines are called in to provide life-saving assistance to avert a humanitarian crisis.

Meanwhile, an explosion at a nearby busy intersection causes numerous civilian casualties.  The same group of Marines is called to provide medical aide.

These are just a few of scenarios that MEU Service Support Group-26 trained for here at this U.S. Army installation Oct. 13 – 22.

Humanitarian assistance operations and massive casualties drills are two of the three qualifications that MSSG-26 is solely responsible to accomplish before the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is certified as "special operations capable."  The "SOC" certification ensures the MEU is trained to operate at a more specialized level than a standard Marine Air Ground Task Force.

An equally important aspect of the training here was for MSSG-26 to begin coordinating their support role with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Bn., 8th Marine Regiment.  This was the first place that the two units came together as a part of the 26th MEU.

“We got everything done that we needed to get done,” said Lt. Col. Clark D. Henderson, commanding officer of MSSG-26.  He added that with more training his Marines and Sailors will be able to accomplish any task the 26th MEU assigns to the unit.

Early in the training, MSSG-26 Marines and Sailors were able to go to machine gun ranges and refresh their skills with the weapons frequently used by the unit.

Though inclimate weather curtailed flight operations for much of the exercise, a brief period of fair skies allowed the Landing Support Detachment’s Helicopter Support Team to arrange aircraft support from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-162 (Reinforced) to move humvees and supply pallets in support of BLT operations.  This is one way in which MSSG-26 and HMM-162 (Rein) work together to resupply equipment to ground units.

Another way MSSG-26 rehearsed replenishing a forward unit is through tactical convoys.  Again working with BLT 2/8 Marines, the group practiced driving tactical logistic convoys around the base here.

The two Special Operations Capable events, massive casualty and humanitarian assistance, were rehearsed numerous times during the evolution here.

Massive casualty drills involve every aspect of the MSSG.  Their mission is to locate the victims of a catastrophe, such as a bombing or mass transit wreck, and then provide immediate medical attention.  In these scenarios, the Navy corpsmen make every effort to stabilize the wounded before transporting them via stretcher to a designated triage area.  At the triage site, wounded people are processed for extraction based on the severity of their injuries.  The highest risk casualties are sent immediately to local medical facilities to get necessary life-saving care.

For a humanitarian assistance operation, the MSSG is called to build a “tent city” for people that have either left or been forcefully displaced from their homes.  The purpose of the camp is to provide a temporary, clean and safe environment for displaced persons without compromising their safety or that of the Marines and Sailors of the MEU.  Prior to entering the camp, displaced persons are searched by military police, screened by medical personnel and processed by the administration section.

The third portion of the MSSG's "SOC" requirement, noncombatant evacuation operations, was not rehearsed during the exercise due to time constraints, explained Henderson.  NEO’s are used to efficiently evacuate civilians of the United States and its allies when fighting in a given region makes it unsafe for them to remain.  The MEU plans to implement this training in later exercises

After the training here was complete, Henderson said he felt confident in the abilities of his Marines and Sailors to complete their part of the 26th MEU's SOC certification.
Until then, the unit will continue to rehearse all aspects of their missions, from "SOC" requirements to tactical convoys.

To learn more about MSSG-26 and the rest of the 26th MEU, visit www.26meu.usmc.mil.