ABOARD USS KEARSARGE -- The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) took part in Operation Eagle Resolve, 2005 in Doha, Qatar May 1–9 to assist the nation in validating its crisis management plan prior to hosting the "Asian Games" in 2006.
Eagle Resolve is one of several exercises in the Arabian Peninsula sponsored by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and executed by U.S. Central Command with Gulf Coast Council (GCC) countries to promote a cooperative defense against weapons of mass destruction and terrorist activity in the region.
The MEU provided three elements to support the Qatari exercise. The MEU forward command element (FCE) was inserted at U.S. Embassy, Doha and a planning team consisting of six members of the MEU staff served in the Qarti crisis management cell during the command post portion of the exercise May 1-7.
The MEU's mass casualty response team comprised of Marines and Sailors of MEU Service Support Group 26 was inserted May 9 from the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce (LPD 15) during the field training exercise (FTX) portion of the operation.
During this part of the scenario, scripted by central command officials, an improvised explosive device detonated at a Qatari sports arena wounding hundreds civilians during the games. Through the American Embassy, the Government of Qatar requested assistance from U.S. forces to assist in the response to the situation.
This process for requesting U.S. forces in the Central Command theatre and their integration into the Qatari military and civil ministries was the key aspect of this exercise, said Lt. Col. James R. Brown III, the executive officer and FCE commander for 26th MEU (SOC).
"The significant piece of this exercise was not the amount of forces used during the exercise, because we did not have the entire MEU off the coast," Brown said.
The dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) was doing maritime interdiction operations in the Arabian Gulf, and the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) was in Bahrain preparing for future operations. "The significant piece was the relationships and procedures by which the MEU was able to provide augmentation to the Qataris," Brown said.
The request process was validated, and the exercise was very successful on that level, he said. This request for U.S. forces from a foreign country, in this case Qatar, is first sent to the U.S. ambassador who forwards it to the secretary of state. From there it goes to the U.S. president who, upon approval, sends it to the Department of Defense for action. From the DOD, it goes to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then to Central Command and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command who tasks the MEU and Expeditionary Strike Group to provide support.
Though this process may sound complex it's not something that would likely happen immediately Brown explained.
"Now, is this request going to come during the Asian Games at the 11th hour? No," he said. "There are going to be tell-tale signs. There are going to be indicators. There is going to be the possibility of the [Qatari Government], prior to the Asian Games even starting, saying 'if we have these types of situations occur, we may request assistance from whatever forces are available."
Due to the communication established and the success of the 26th MEU's (SOC) involvement in Eagle Resolve, Brown believes that support will come easier.
He also added the Qatari government seemed impressed with the amount of medical supplies and personnel that flowed ashore from MSSG 26 during the FTX.
When most host nations hear 'Marines' they think one thing [combat operations] and don't realize the myriad of capabilities the MEU and ESG can bring, he said.
With the exercise complete the MEU and ESG now prepare to take up maritime security operations in the north Arabian Gulf to promote stability and security in the region.
To follow the 26th MEU throughout its current deployment, log onto www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.