MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The six-month, predeployment training cycle a Marine Expeditionary Unit must endure before it loads onto a Navy strike group for deployment requires a MEU commander to form four, separate elements into one cohesive unit.
Since June 23, when the 26th MEU officially activated, the Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Rein.), and Combat Logistics Battalion-26, have labored long and hard to live up to the mantra, "A certain force in an uncertain world."
The elements have joined together for MEU-wide training exercises that have tested the abilities of all the elements both alone and in concert with each other.
Colonel Gregg A. Sturdevant, commanding officer of the 26th MEU, explained the training in summary.
"Each of our training evolutions is designed to make us better in the core exercises the [Commandant of the Marine Corps] expects us to be able to perform," he said.
Most recently, the MEU completed the Composite Unit Training Exercise, where the entire MEU loaded all its equipment and personnel onto the ships of the Bataan Strike Group and trained for all facets of a MEU's mission.
"COMPTUEX gives us an opportunity to get comfortable aboard ship and to do planning and execution of different raid packages, as well as mass casualty evacuation and humanitarian assistance drills," said Sturdevant.
Raid packages are the specialty of the 26th MEU's BLT 2/2, which looks forward to the opportunity to get off the ship and execute them, said Lt. Col. Christopher C. Starling, commanding officer of BLT 2/2.
"COMPTUEX allows the MEU to focus on traditional MEU missions such as the ship-to-shore piece," he said, adding, "It also allows us to grow our relationship with the CLB and (Aviation Combat Element), which is important because we rely heavily on the capabilities of the MEU."
Lieutenant Colonel Michael G. McCoy, commanding officer of HMM-264 (Rein.) echoed Starling's words about the benefits of COMPTUEX.
"Our focus has always been on building relationships between the elements," he said, "and COMPTUEX will help build proficiency in shipboard operations, help the MEU to refine its ability to rapidly plan and execute missions, and allow us to continue building those ties with the other elements."
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Arantz, commanding officer of CLB-26, said each of the MEU's exercises leads to improvements across the board.
He mentioned the proficiency of the embarkation Marines, who are responsible for seeing that everything is loaded aboard the ships properly and completely, an important job for a unit that essentially brings everything it needs for any mission along with it on board.
"Embarkation and ship-to-shore movement is one of the hardest things we do," Arantz said, "and it's often taken for granted but they are very good at what they do."
The CLB's mission was further complicated by all the concurrent missions it was called upon to do, Arantz said.
"We were called upon to transition from ship to shore while simultaneously building a humanitarian assistance camp and providing support to the MEU and the BLT," he said.
Overall, the training evolution was a success, said Sturdevant.
Sturdevant said COMPTUEX tested the abilities of all the elements of the MEU.
"It stressed all the aspects of the MEU; the Command Element exercised its ability to command and control; logistics supported the MEU and carried out their own missions such as humanitarian assistance; the Battalion Landing Team carried out raid packages; and the Aviation Combat Element flew in support of almost all the missions."
"I was pleased at our progress across the board," he said. "Based on what I saw, I'm sure the MEU will do well during [the Certification Exercise], and after that, our deployment."
With COMPTUEX complete, the 26th MEU has only one more scheduled training evolution before its 2007 deployment in the Global War on Terror.
For more information, news, and video on the 26th MEU, please visit www.usmc.mil/26meu.