26th MEU(SOC) wraps up NATO's Destined Glory 2000

27 Oct 2000 | Cpl. Derek A. Shoemake

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) completed the second
and final phase of NATO's Exercise Destined Glory 2000 Oct. 26, ending the unit's
largest training evolution since their Mediterranean deployment began.

Destined Glory is an exercise designed to improve joint operations of an amphibious
nature in the southern Mediterranean region.

The multi-national exercise brought together members of each of the MEU's Major
Supporting Elements from all three ships within the USS Saipan Amphibious Ready
Group: USS Saipan, USS Austin and USS Ashland.

"I thought it was a great exercise," said Capt. Kenneth Kassner, 26th MEU(SOC)'s
Battalion Landing Team 2/2 Golf Company Commander. "It gave the different elements
of the MEU a chance to work together while offering the opportunity to conduct live-fire training."

The second phase of the exercise began when Kassner's men launched from USS Austin
to lead an amphibious landing into Doganbey. They were followed soon after by
members of MEU Service Support Group 26, and other units from BLT 2/2, to include
Fox Company in CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters off USS Saipan, Echo Company via
Amphibious Assault Vehicles and Landing Craft, Utility (LCU) off USS Ashland.  A
Light Armored Reconnaissance detachment with Light Armored Vehicles splashed off
USS Saipan and the Battalion's Headquarters and Service Company landed ashore on
LCUs, from Saipan.

Once ashore, the initial BLT forces stormed their objectives, many of which were
manned by Turkish troops simulating opposing forces. Once these objectives were
secure, the Battalion began internal training such as live-fire exercises at the ranges here, patrolling, ambushes and various other war-gaming.

The training offered many firsts on this deployment for the BLT.

Fox Company used a KC-130 Hercules to conduct a long-range security reinforcement to
the Greek Island of Souda Bay. Echo Company's AAV and M1-A1 Abraham's Battle
Tank platoons had their first opportunities to live fire. Headquarters and Service
Company's evacuation control team had a chance to conduct a Noncombatant Evacuation
Operation (NEO) with their counterparts at MSSG-26. The NEO proved to be a valuable
learning experience for both units.

"Both our teams do the same job, but sometimes we have different ways of doing the
same thing," said 1stLt. James Semmens, MSSG-26 Shore Party Platoon Commander and
Wheaton, Ill. native. "This gave us a chance to learn about how the other team [evacuates American citizens and foreign nationals]. After that, we took the best method and made that the standard procedure."

For example, the BLT team processed evacuees using two lines, something the MSSG-26
team will now do.

In addition to their NEO team, other members of MSSG had a chance to practice their
jobs in the field.

According to Maj. Kenneth Lasure, MSSG-26 Executive Officer, the MSSG provided a
combat service support area, which served as the central supply point for the MEU during the exercise.

"Our goal out there was two things," he said. "We wanted to provide a full range of our capabilities to the MEU, and we wanted to build camaraderie with the other units that we support."

When they were not bust providing assistance to those units, Marines and Sailors of
MSSG-26 took the opportunity to brush up on patrolling techniques and rear-area
security.

The MEU's Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 was also able to take advantage of
Destined Glory's training opportunities. In addition to providing troop and cargo
transport for the exercise, the area's mountainous terrain and ranges allowed the squadron to conduct live-fire exercises. Helicopters such as the AH1-W Super Cobra Gunships and UH-1N Huey lit up the night skies with various arsenal. The squadron's AV-8B Harriers provided Close Air Support for many of the simulated missions.

Members of the 26th MEU(SOC)'s Command Element S-6 set up the Joint Task Force
Enabler, a satellite communications system that makes it possible for someone to make a call from the middle of a desert to the United States. Much of the tactical movement
ashore was also controlled by the Command Element, working from USS Saipan's
Landing Force Operations Center (LFOC).

In all, Marines and Sailors here said they enjoyed the exercise.

"It was a great learning experience," said Cpl. Torey Kidder, Franklin, Penn. native and Landing Support Specialist with MSSG-26. "Having the units out here for an extended
amount of time lets everyone get an idea of everyone else's mission."

Colonel Kenneth J. Glueck, 26th MEU (SOC) Commanding Officer, agreed it was
important for the units to have this opportunity to train together.

"The exercise was a huge success," he said. "All phases were professionally and safely executed, and it was a great chance to reinforce those fundamental skills that make us an important presence here in the Mediterranean."