FORT PICKETT, Va. -- The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is one of the most versatile units in the Marine Corps, capable of delivering aid with one hand and destroying those who would threaten America with the other. Marines and sailors of the MEU focused on training for the former Sept. 20, 2012. They established an evacuation control center and ran Marines acting as role-players through the process of registering, moving them to the appropriate location, searching and screening, and evacuating them.
“We are conducting evacuation operations in support of the MEU’s mission essential task list of providing non-combatant evacuation operations,” said 1st Lt. Shane Cooley, Combat Logistics Battalion 26 landing support platoon commander from Oklahoma City. The NEO, conducted at Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center, Va., was practice for a crisis situation where the Marines might find themselves evacuating citizens from a situation where a foreign government had lost control of its population and could not guarantee the safety of American citizens abroad.
The ECC is set up in a series of stations. Battalion Landing Team 3/2 will provide external security and the initial screening, removing obvious weapons and contraband items from evacuees. The refugees will then be processed through an administration center, going through appropriate lines based on their category, be they American citizens, families of American citizens, embassy employees, or foreign nationals. “We’re going to determine which category these refugees are in, scan their ID’s, get accountability of everyone before we send them to the right place,” said Cpl. Michael Johnson, landing support specialist from Portland, Ore.
There are medical personnel on hand to deal with any situations falling within their purview during the operation. “We’re providing healthcare to anyone who needs it: U.S. citizens, allied citizens, detainees – they all rate medical care,” said Seaman Nic Covington, corpsman from Gadsden, Tenn. There are areas for treating any immediate medical needs, and an area for quarantining anyone with an infectious disease. “We’re there to be ready for whatever may come, heaven or hell,” said Covington.
Military police provide internal security, detaining unruly refugees and placing them in a cordoned off area to be dealt with, and search more thoroughly for contraband. “It’s our job to conduct a hasty search after they’ve already been searched by the BLT at the external perimeter,” said Gunnery Sgt. Allen Smith, military police detachment commander from Clinton, S.C. “We’re looking for weapons, drugs, IED’s, anything the Transportation Security Administration would look for at the airport.”
In the turbulent international climate, it’s ever more necessary to train for these kinds of situations. With any luck, these skills will never be needed, but if they are, the 26th MEU will stand ready.
The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit will deploy in 2013.