MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina --
The Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in Amphibious Squadron MEU Integration (PMINT) exercise with the warships that make up the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) from Jan. 23 to Feb. 6, 2023, which centered around two major training exercises back-to-back to enhance combat readiness through the continuous rehearsal of core Marine Air-Ground Task Force mission essential tasks.
The two exercises were Amphibious Squadron MEU Integration (PMINT) Exercise and MEU Exercise II, both are critical training evolutions in the in the units’ pre-deployment program. This was the first integrated Amphibious Squadron 8 and 26th MEU, at-sea exercise with the entire ARG, where the Task Force seized opportunities to experiment new concepts.
During PMINT, the 26th MEU loaded a HIMARS onto a Landing Craft, Air Cushioned and where it was transported from a beachhead on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina onto the USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) off the coast of eastern North Carolina.
A HIMARS is an incredibly versatile and accurate weapon system, which utilizes guided missiles and rockets with most munitions reaching distances of 84 kilometers and can be increased further when the launcher and target is at higher altitudes.
The importance of this occasion was best said by U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Chace Nelson, the Battery Commander of Sierra Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1/6, 26th MEU.
“Embarking the launcher for the first time [on the east coast] allows us to build on the challenges discovered during inaugural deployments from 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment,” Nelson said. “We’ve been able to work through the maintenance considerations and, most importantly, the inherent challenges that come with rocket logistics. The ARG/MEU team has been incredibly professional and supportive in solving these challenges.”
Nelson also stated that the weapon system aligns with Force Design 2030 and assists the Marine Corps with modernization efforts.
“The capacity to deliver rocket and missile fires into deep battlespaces enables a greater distance between Expeditionary Amphibious Bases, prosecuting targets across various domains,” he said. “The mobility of the launcher allows it to operate in disparate environments, insert rapidly via surface or air, and provide significant firepower to the blunt force layer deployed forward.”
Aboard the USS Mesa Verde was U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Luke Tarvin, a HIMARS launcher section chief assigned to 1st Platoon, Sierra Battery. He said his unit is unique in the Marine Corps, being the first battery to both have howitzers and HIMARS organic to one unit instead of being separate sections as seen in traditional MEUs.
“Previous deployments involving both howitzers and HIMARS all formed after joining a MEU,” said Tarvin. “Sierra Battery composited last year, where we trained together and were certified together, having knowledge and experience on both platforms.”
HIMARS is a huge deal, and so is this capability the battery is able to execute during PMINT, Tarvin said.
“We provide the 26th MEU a lethal force that can shoot far, be mobile and communicate across the MAGTF,” he said. “I look forward to seeing what other firsts we accomplish.”