OFF THE COAST OF JACKSONVILLE, N.C. --
Nearly six weeks after completing its first major training exercise at Fort Pickett, Va., the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit moved one step closer to its scheduled deployment this fall.
Approximately 1,500 Marines and sailors from the MEU participated in the two week Expeditionary Strike Group Integration Exercise to test its operational load plan, which is a standard evolution in every MEU’s pre-deployment training program.
The first half of the exercise focused on preparing the seven vessels of the Iwo Jima ESG to operate together. Midway through the exercise, Marines began launching ship-to-shore raids and conducting urban-combat training aboard Camp Lejeune.
The exercise, which was the first time all the elements of the MEU were able to load their equipment and personnel aboard the ships which will make up the USS Iwo Jima ESG, focused on what the Marines call “situational training exercises.”
The MEU was issued a series of orders, designed to replicate the types of missions they’re likely to face during their deployment. In much the same way they would while deployed, the Marines quickly planned and executed the missions, testing their rapid-response capabilities.
“I was extremely pleased with the MEU’s performance,” said Col. Gregg A. Sturdevant, the MEU’s commanding officer. “After this ‘at sea’ period we’re ahead of our last work-up cycle.”
The MEU also practiced refining its rapid response planning process, planning and conducting multiple raids, and practiced beachhead onload and offload procedures. In addition, the MEU adjusted to conducting operations aboard the ships of the ESG.
The “ESGINT provided and excellent opportunity to integrate the Marines and sailors of the 26th MEU and the Iwo Jima Strike Group as we exercised mission planning and execution, training and shipboard drills,” Sturdevant said.
The time aboard ship allowed the MEU to identify and troubleshoot issues in areas such as communication, administration, and command and control.
The 26th MEU is approximately halfway through its pre-deployment period designed to facilitate the merger of the dynamic elements of the MEU into a cohesive, rapid-reaction force. The 26th MEU will continue to prepare for a scheduled fall 2008 deployment in support of the Global War on Terror.
For more information on the 26th MEU, go to www.26meu.usmc.mil.