Photo Information

Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Enslow, headquarters commandant for 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s command element, briefs Marines and sailors prior to boarding USS Kearsarge, April 19, 2010 for Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON)/ MEU Integration training (PMINT). During PMINT, MEU Marines will be introduced to life aboard the ships and will participate in training exercises aboard USS Kearsarge, USS New York, and USS Carter Hall.

Photo by LCpl Santiago Colon Jr.

One step closer to deployment, 26th MEU stretches sea legs, builds interoperable team with Navy

4 May 2010 | Lance Cpl. Santiago G. Colon Jr

After two weeks of in-depth training aboard the ships USS Kearsarge, USS New York and USS Carter Hall, Marines and sailors with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit wrapped up Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON)/MEU Integration (PMINT) training, May 3.

PMINT’s main goal was integrating 26th MEU Marines and sailors with their Navy counterparts with PHIBRON-4, and the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group to plan and execute missions they could conduct when they deploy together this fall.

During PMINT, the elements of 26th MEU, comprised of the Command Element, Aviation Combat Element, Ground Combat Element and Logistics Combat Element, conducted several evolutions developing capabilities that will enable the command to seamlessly deploy and project power ashore from naval vessels during its deployment, including shipboard familiarization, integrated planning and execution of various amphibious operations, and supporting arms coordination both afloat and ashore.

Aviation Marines, while honing their interoperability with the ship’s flight deck crews, performed deck landing qualifications, a vertical assault mission, and medical evacuation training. Ground Combat Element Marines and sailors with Battalion Landing Team 3/8 conducted raids using amphibious assault vehicles and tanks.

Other training events conducted were sensitive site exploitation training, which involved inserting troops into supposed enemy territory to gather intelligence. Important to these movements were the planning and coordination that are required and evolve asPMINT progresses. Once refined, these methodologies will save valuable resources when the need arises.

“Our primary capability as an expeditionary force is to be able to swiftly project and sustain power ashore,” said Lt. Col. Michael C. Starling, the executive officer of 26th MEU. “The command and control processes we are refining are our vehicles used to accomplish that.”

The Marines also practiced the procedures for calling in naval gun and artillery support. They conducted a standoff land attack missile exercise and a Visit Board Search and Seizure exercise (VBSS), which had troops boarding and searching a ship suspected of carrying simulated contraband.

The VBSS training also requires instruction in the reception of forces and possible detainees once the boarding force returns from its mission. All exercises aboard the ships were supported by the aviation element, Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 and the logistics element, Combat Logistics Battalion 26. MV-22 Ospreys, AV-8B Harriers, AH-1W Super Cobras, CH-53E Super Stallions, and UH-1N Hueys provided air support. After a successful initial exercise at Fort Pickett, PMINT was a chance to introduce Marines and sailors to working together and building inter-service teamwork, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher J. Joy, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense officer who served as senior watch officer during PMINT.

 “This is probably the most important exercise we have conducted as a MEUso far this year,” said Joy. “We took some huge steps forward as we prepare for deployment.”

Because of the long days and tight living quarters, Marines and sailors had to adapt to new operating conditions they will face during deployment.

“The biggest difference would be how cramped it was on ship,” said Pfc. Benjamin E. Richardson, a machine gunner with Battalion Landing Team 3/8, who was on ship for the first time during PMINT. “Usually on land you are not within three feet of somebody. On ship, you are pretty much rights up on them as you try to get dressed or do anything.”

Despite the lack of conveniences of ship life, Marines with 26th MEU kept a positive attitude overall and understood the importance of integration with PHIBRON-4, as they will spend six months deployed with the squadron, said Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah R. Warnick, force fires chief with command element, 26th MEU.

“As Marines, our background is amphibious,” said Warnick. “It is important to work well with the Navy because they make up the other half of the team. They will be moving and positioning us during operations, so PMINT was vital in order to understand what they need from us and for them to understand what we need from them."

With PMINT complete, 26th MEU still has several exercises remaining until its deployment this fall. Next for 26th MEU is Realistic Urban Training in Southern Virginia in June, followed by a Composite Unit Training Exercise aboard ship in July.

The MEU will end pre-deployment training with a certification exercise in August. The 26th MEU will deploy aboard the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, which consists of USS Kearsarge, USS Carter Hall and USS Ponce.