Photo Information

U.S. Marines and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit stand in formation before a birthday cake cutting ceremony to celebrate the MEU’s 46th birthday aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), April 24, 2013. Currently deployed to the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility, the 26th MEU operates continuously across the globe, providing the president and unified combatant commanders with 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. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels/Released)

Photo by Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels

The 26th MEU celebrates 46 years

25 Apr 2013 | Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels

Marines and sailors assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, as well as sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), gathered to commemorate the 26th MEU’s 46th birthday on the flight deck of the USS Kearsarge, at sea, April 24, 2013.

“It is absolutely appropriate that we are out here, afloat, embarked on this LHD, an amphibious ship of the United States Navy,” said Col. Matthew G. St. Clair, commanding officer of the 26th MEU. “This is where we belong – this is where you belong, being part of that blue- green team. For our 45th birthday we had the pleasure of being afloat on the USS Wasp, and now we get to do it again, but this time we are forward-deployed as a crisis response force ready to respond today, with what we have embarked, to meet whatever challenge that may be.”

With 46 years of history the 26th MEU has been a force to be reckoned with, traveling to all corners of the world, conducting a variety of operations, and creating milestones to be proud of.

“This MEU has done many things over its 46 years. It was once a (Marine Amphibious Unit), then it became a MEU, then a MAU, and now it has become a MEU again,” said St. Clair. “It has been all over the world. It has been to the Caribbean, it’s been to Albania, it’s been to Iraq, and it’s been to Afghanistan… it was the first MEU to deploy with tanks; it was the first MEU to deploy with Harriers. There are a lot of firsts with this MEU.”

Sgt. Maj. Todd M. Parisi, 26th MEU sergeant major, said this was a good time for Marines and sailors to come together and take a glance back and provide us a little bit more awareness for our firm footing today, and look to the future in order to be prepared to be today’s force, to beat today’s crisis.

 “The Marine Expeditionary Unit forward deployed is a magnificent creature,” said Parisi. “To be able to be so diverse, and to be forward deployed on the deck of a ship, out at sea, celebrating the MEU’s birthday with Marines and sailors being the nations force on-call, prepared to do whatever needs to be done - that is what makes this celebration so unique. We are really living the essence of what we all came into the Marine Corps to do, to be a part of this magnificent force, to be standing by for whatever may occur.”

            The 26th MEU’s sergeant major said no one is certain on what is next for the amphibious quick-reaction force, but he said he did know one thing for sure.

            “What you are certainly guaranteed is excellence in execution,” he said. “A consolidation of great American warriors, patriots, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, moms and dads, who have the courage to leave home and do whatever needs to be done. A family that truly lives by the essence, soul and spirit of that very word. You can be assured that no matter what is tasked to us, whether it be theater security operations, a raid, a (non-combatant evacuation operation), combat operations, or a trap mission, no matter what it is, no matter when it is, if it is in our theater of operation, we will do it with excellence.”

Before cutting the cake that was presented by the combat cooks and culinary specialists of the blue-green team, the colonel of the 26th MEU left the Marines and sailors at the ceremony with a few last words.

“Each MEU has the same kind of mission, but what makes the MEU ‘the MEU’ is you,” said St. Clair. “The Marines and sailors that are standing before me: this is your MAGTF. You, as you are now, are opening a new chapter in our history and it will close when this deployment closes. That is why we are here. We are here because our nation may need us. Our nation may need us when our nation is least ready and we are most ready. We are that certain force in an uncertain world.”