CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit officially stood down April 27, 2009, concluding a 14-month deployment cycle.
The Major Subordinate Elements of the MEU, Battalion Landing Team 2/6, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Rein) and Combat Logistics Battalion-26, decomposed to their parent units aboard Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River.
After forming Feb. 15, 2008, the MEU began its 6-month pre-deployment training cycle. Portions of the MEU immediately teamed with Marines from BLT 3/8 to form a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force to conduct the successful operational evaluation of the new LPD-17 class USS San Antonio.
The approximate 2,200 MEU Marines conducting their first MEU-wide training evolution at Fort Pickett, VA, in April. They went on to conduct other training evolutions, including Expeditionary Strike Group Integration training with the Iwo Jima Strike Group in May.
June 2008 saw the 26th MEU in Camp Atterbury, Ind., the farthest west an East Coast MEU has trained in the U.S., for Realistic Urban Training. While there, the Marines supported Humanitarian and Disaster Relief operations when heavy rain and thunderstorms flooded 44 counties there.
MEU Marines returned to the ships of the Iwo Jima Strike Group in July to conduct Composite Unit Training and then deployed Aug. 25, 2008.
While in the 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Operation, the MEU supported regional security and stability. 26th MEU Marines supported operations in Iraq and off the Horn of Africa as well as conducting numerous Theater Security Cooperation exercises designed to bolster international relations and improve the military efficiency of regional allies.
Shortly after deploying, the MEU’s CH-53E Super Stallions were detached and sent to Iraq to support Marine Aircraft Group-16 operating out of Al Asad. The detachment included more than 50 Marines and sailors, and spent six months supporting operations there.
The MEU also conducted counter-piracy operations near the coast of Somalia in cooperation with the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.
The MEU operated in both the 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Operations at various times during the deployment. They traversed the waters of the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Gulf, as well as countries such as France, Italy, Spain and the many nations surrounding the Arabian Peninsula.
During their time in 6th Fleet, the MEU’s Marines also participated in community relations projects during two ports of call. In Sicily, Marines and sailors improved the grounds of the Cassa Della Beneficenza Orphanage in Floridia, Sicily. In Rota, Spain, the MEU sent teams to work landscaping at La Cartuja Monastery and to deliver sports equipment and school supplies to orphans at Hogar Nuestra Sra Del Rosario Orphanage.
With the USS Iwo Jima, the MEU also had a number of influential visitors during its seven-month deployment. Some of these visitors included the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, the Ambassador to Spain, Spanish Minister of Defense, former Marine and actor R. Lee Ermey, and a host of general officers from countries throughout 5th and 6th fleet.
26th MEU Marines concluded offloading Iwo Jima Strike Group Ships March 25, 2009. The 26th MEU is scheduled to re-form early 2010 for a deployment later that year.