USS KEARSARGE, At Sea -- The soul of the Marine Corps was born at sea; naval infantrymen meant to support boarding actions through accurate, long-range fire from the fighting tops and decks of sailing ships. The role of the Corps expanded to amphibious operations, an area of warfare the Army was unequipped to handle, and from there to prolonged campaigns ashore, operating as shock infantry superior to regular forces. But what goes around, comes around.
So, it is historically appropriate that our units are gradually returning to this tradition of being embarked aboard ships of war belonging to the Navy. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit set sail from Norfolk, Va., Jan. 22, 2013, with more than 2,000 Marines embarked aboard the USS Kearsarge, USS San Antonio, and USS Carter Hall. The 26th MEU, with its reinforcements, Battalion Landing Team 3/2, Combat Logistics Battalion 26, and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266 Reinforced, will spend the next month at sea. Together with their artillery, vehicles, aircraft, and other assets, this unit represents one of the most flexible expressions of American political will in the world today.
Equally capable of combat operations, as MEUs have demonstrated time and time again, as it is of humanitarian operations, as it demonstrated not three months ago when it responded to Hurricane Sandy after its rampage through the northeastern seaboard, the unit is going through its final pre-deployment training exercise. With the completion of this exercise, the unit will saddle up and set sail east into the sunrise and beyond on its deployment.
Along with Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 4, the unit is conducting its PHIBRON-MEU Integration training where the MEU will get all of the aircraft and Marines responsible for their operation and maintenance qualified on procedures for operating off of an amphibious assault ship. This will also mark the first time that all of the MEU’s equipment has been embarked onboard the vessels it will deploy on.
The second part of the exercise, named Composite Training Unit Exercise, includes training operations across the full range of missions it may be called upon to perform during its upcoming deployment. Representatives from the Marine Corps and Navy will evaluate the MEU’s ability to run the gamut of operations that may be required of it. One of the key points of the MEU is its ability to handle nearly any mission across the spectrum of peace and war. From humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations to mechanized assaults and precision strikes by assault fighters, the unit is capable of doing just about anything that’s required of it.