USS BATAAN, At Sea --
Embarked aboard the USS Bataan, the USS San Antonio, and the USS Carter Hall, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned to the waves once more Dec. 11, 2012. After traveling from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to Naval Station Norfolk, Va., and then out to sea, the MEU is taking part in training exercises covering the length and breadth of the its widely varied mission sets. From amphibious assaults to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, the 26th MEU is slated to hone all of its skills – after they learn their way around the ships.
“We’re just getting a handle on living aboard a naval vessel,” said Lance Cpl. Jakob Hansen, a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense specialist with the 26th MEU and an Atlanta native.
For many Marines and sailors with the unit, this will be their first time aboard a warship. From the narrow passageways and tight living quarters with beds stacked four high to the missing cell phone and commercial Internet services often taken for granted on land, the transition can be a rough one.
“It gets people ready for deployment. It gets Marines experience if they haven’t been aboard ship before,” said Sgt. Vincent Walters, radio operator with the 26th MEU and a native of Oceanside, Calif.
“We’re practicing being on ship,” said Chief Petty Officer Elizabeth Davenport, independent duty corpsman with the 26th MEU and a Los Angeles native. “The battalion landing team is practicing their assaults, the aviation combat element is getting deck certified, and we’re all getting familiarized with ship life.”
The raid forces of BLT 3/2 will practice motorized, mechanized, and air raids during the exercise. “We’re heading out to the field,” said Cpl. Edgar Berrios, a field radio operator with BLT 3/2 from Lorton, Va. “We’ll be setting up the combat operations center and coordinating operations.” The three raid packages give the MEU commander the flexibility to decide what level of force he needs to accomplish a mission and use the appropriate strength.
At the same time, the aircraft of the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266 Reinforced will do their certification exercises to qualify them to land on the small decks of the amphibious carriers the MEU will embark upon. The operations of the ACE are critical; aviation assets could be utilized to fly Marines to and from every conceivable operation, from vertical assaults to evacuations or disaster relief.
Combat Logistics Battalion 26 will train for noncombatant evacuation operations, humanitarian assistance missions, and a variety of other mission profiles the MEU may be called upon to perform. The CLB’s assets give the MEU the flexibility to exist in all dimensions of the operational realm.
The Marines and sailors of the 26th MEU will continue training at sea and ashore for their upcoming deployment. The 26th MEU operates continuously across the globe, providing the president and unified combatant commanders a forward-deployed, sea-based quick reaction force. The MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response, and limited contingency operations. The 26th MEU is slated to deploy in 2013.