MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned here July 23 after wrapping up three weeks of intense integration and live-fire training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
The training, which began July 5, marked the beginning of the MEU's rigorous six-month pre-deployment training program.
The goal of the training is for the MEU to be fully prepared to conduct a myriad of potential operations during its deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism, scheduled for early 2007.
The exercises at A.P. Hill gave Battalion Landing Team 2nd Bn., 2nd Marine Regiment; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced); Combat Logistics Battalion-26 and the MEU's Command Element the opportunity to work together in a real field environment for the first time this year.
The MEU chose to train at A.P. Hill because it offered a distraction-free environment and extensive training ranges, said Capt. Shawn A. Rickrode, the 26th MEU's anti-terrorism force protection officer, and the MEU's action officer during the training.
The MEU put nearly all of its ground, air and logistics capabilities into action during its time at A.P. Hill in an array of scenarios, including non-combatant evacuation operations, mass casualty evacuations, and helicopter delivery of supplies.
These operations were accomplished in the face of intense heat, logistics and communications issues, and long hours, said Lt. Col. Christopher A. Arantz, commanding officer of CLB-26.
"We had a lot to accomplish at A.P. Hill, and the Marines and Sailors were up to the challenge," he said.
Bringing the MEU's diverse elements into a single-bodied, effective fighting force was the primary focus of the training, said Rickrode.
"We wanted to build a 26th MEU team," said Arantz. "We accomplished that."
With the first major exercise of the pre-deployment cycle under its belt, the MEU now prepares for an integration exercise aboard the ships of the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group.
Before heading out to sea, the MEU will begin conducting specialized training here in areas such as non-lethal weapons, helicopter and vehicle-borne raids, and enhanced marksmanship.
For more information on the 26th MEU, go to www.26meu.usmc.mil.