FORT A.P. HILL, Va. -- Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Combat Logistics Battalion - 26 turned an overgrown, grassy field into a safe and healthy haven for potential refugees and displaced persons during a humanitarian assistance exercise here, July 21.
Humanitarian assistance disaster relief operations are one of three traditional missions headed up by the logistics unit, the other two being mass casualty missions and noncombatant evacuation operations.
Major Chris C. Lynch, executive officer of CLB-26 and officer in charge of the initial response team, said there are two main causes for the types of situations where the MEU would be called upon by the United States government to execute a humanitarian assistance operation.
"One is a natural disaster, and the other is those that are caused by man, "Lynch said
The MEU has the capability to supply 300 people with shelter, food, water, sanitation and basic medical care, he said.
Katherine L. Stone, an adviser from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an arm of the Office of United States Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), said these exercises are very useful tools to help coordinate real world missions between her agency and the MEU.
"When we're working together in the field, we will understand each others capabilities." she said. "It makes it go smoother where and when you actually have to do humanitarian assistance."
Stone, who has worked on humanitarian assistance operations with Marines in locations such as Pakistan, said MEUs hold a very important role in worldwide disaster relief.
"Marines bring their logistical expertise, while USAID brings disaster expertise," she said. "If we're doing our jobs, we're working very closely together."
After the Marines and Sailor constructed the camp and advisers found it passed all inspections, they began tearing it down and packing the equipment away to prepare for their return to Camp Lejeune, N. C.
Lynch, watching the progress of his Marines and Sailors, said he was very pleased with the exercise.
"I'm very proud of these Marines -- the speed and efficiency of the operation exceeded my timeline and my expectations," he said, adding, "The leadership of my [non-commissioned officers] and staff [non-commissioned officers] was the key to the success of this mission."
The 26th MEU's training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., is the first segment of 26th MEU's six-month pre-deployment training process designed to incorporate all the elements of the MEU into a cohesive, rapid -- reaction force. The 26th MEU will continue to prepare for an early 2007 deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
For more information on the 26th MEU, go to www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.