NAVAL AIR STATION JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Whether it comes from watching movies depicting the fighting of Hue City during the Vietnam War or recent CNN coverage of the ongoing conflict in the Balkans, when people think of Marines in battle, urban environments are filling their thoughts more and more.
Despite the "urban uproar" that is an integral part of today's military training, the citizens of Jacksonville, Fla., seemed very surprised to see the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Maritime Special Purpose Force "take" a large building in the downtown area. The "take down" was the culmination of a pre-deployment workup exercise called Training in an Urban Environment Exercise held recently.
"It was the perfect way to finish up the training here," said Cpl. Rene Acapulco, 26th MEU unit diary chief. "And if you couldn't make it downtown, it was well televised."
Aside from the "show" that went on, Marines were training behind the scenes; and not just the Marines that were fast roping on to roofs and clearing buildings, according to Col. Andrew P. Frick, 26th MEU commanding officer.
"While TRUEX is very important for the executors, its greatest value is to the staff," said Frick. "It focuses the staff on R2P2 (Rapid Response Planning Process) and allows to hone the staff skills that can be applied to a wide variety of missions."
The R2P2 processes are the steps the Marine Corps uses to plan a mission. The process is set up to take approximately six hours from the receiving of the warning order, which would put the staff in session, to the launching of the first Marines from the deck of the ship to execute the mission.
"I believe that our skills at this point in the training are more developed than other units have been," said Lance Cpl. Avias T. Jones, 26th MEU guard force. Although, said Jones, he didn't know how far the MEU has come as a team because he hasn't been with the MEU since the "stand up."
"While I feel there is always room for improvement, the more we train together the greater the "cohesion factor" which helps us plan, think and execute as one vice four separate elements," explained Frick.
Jones said he believes the MEU is at its strongest point so far. He said it should be because the Marines and Sailors continue to train and learn as the workups go on.
So far the MEU's training has taken them from the information processing courses of the staff to expeditionary woodland training in Virginia, familiarization with ship life and the latest urban environment training the MEU will soon begin its final exercises.
"Completion of TRUEX is the halfway point in our [pre-deployment training], I feel comfortable that the MEU has met or exceeded its goals to this point," said Frick. "All the Marines and Sailors have worked hard for the last 90 days, at this point we will starting to "test" those skills."
Frick said those skills will be tested during the Amphibious Ready Group/MEU Exercise.
"The ARG/MEUEX is my test to see if we are ready, though there is little time to do anything prior to SOCEX (Special Operations Capable Exercise)," said Frick. "If we see any areas of concern, we may have an opportunity to practice it again. At a minimum we will be able to 'brainstorm' what needs to be 'fixed.'"
Marines are starting to realize that the exercises are for 'real' and it seems they are all taking things more seriously, according to Jones. He said TRUEX might be the closest thing to reality we have to train with if we face an actual urban conflict or situation.
"I am always proud of all the Marines and Sailors of the 26th MEU," said Frick. "They have all worked very hard to date and I'm pleased with where we are."