ABOARD USS BATAAN -- The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned here, and to the other ships of the Bataan Strike Group, recently, following nearly two weeks of rigorous sustainment training at Udairi Range and Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
The training, which began April 24, marked the first time since deploying Jan. 6 that the entire MEU had off-loaded ashore to conduct operations or training.
Having the MEU ashore in its entirety played a key role in setting the table for a successful round of desert training, said Col. Gregg A. Sturdevant, 26th MEU commanding officer.
While in Kuwait, each element of the Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) took advantage of an abundance of training opportunities.
Battalion Landing Team 2/2, the MEU's ground combat element, capitalized on the extensive desert training areas at the Udairi Range complex to put its troops through numerous scenarios, including military operations in urban terrain, entry control point tactics and mounted and dismounted patrol maneuvers.
The wide-open training spaces also gave BLT 2/2 the opportunity to unleash its explosive side, as the battalion's mortar, tank and artillery units all had a chance to conduct live-fire exercises.
"The value of the training (in Kuwait) was absolutely priceless," said Sgt. Maj. Howard K. Long, BLT 2/2 sergeant major. "For the first time in this deployment we got to exercise all of our elements as everyone got a chance to train."
Training was not the only focus of the MEU during its time in the desert, as the unit's combat service support arm, Combat Logistics Battalion-26, proved with a robust maintenance schedule.
The logistics battalion's goal in Kuwait was to knock out as much of its scheduled and accumulated maintenance issues as possible, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Todd L. McCallister, CLB-26 maintenance officer.
The MEU's ground elements were not the only components to reap the benefits of the desert training.
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced), the MEU's aviation combat element, took to the skies for round-the-clock flight operations that resulted in seven pilots advancing their flight designation qualifications, said Maj. Jan M. January, the squadron's special projects officer.
"There were some awesome terrain features in Kuwait that we used to challenge our pilots," he explained.
An abundance of technology-enhanced training opportunities were found at Camp Buehring itself, including a humvee egress simulator, an advanced first-aid trainer and a main battle tank simulator.
When the MEU's personnel were not busy training, the camp also offered comforts to the troops in the form of dining facilities, restaurants and post exchanges.
While these amenities were certainly welcome after spending much of the last few months at sea, the best part of the MEU's time ashore was the intense training, said Lance Cpl. Joshua C. Davis, a rifleman from Company E, BLT 2/2.
"There were a lot of nice things about the base, but in reality it was probably better that we spent most of our time in the field," he stated. "It was some of the best training I've ever had, especially because it was set in the desert."
The MEU's accomplishments as a whole were nothing short of outstanding, said Sturdevant. "Overall I think our time in Kuwait was very productive. We were able to accomplish the majority of our training and an impressive amount of maintenance."
The training in Kuwait marked the MEU's fourth ashore exercise during its current deployment as the landing force for the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group. The unit had previously conducted exercises in Djibouti, Kenya and Qatar.
For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.