MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) composited as a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), March 16, and will spend the next six months training with the U.S. Navy's Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group for a deployment this fall.
The 26th MEU, commanded by Col. Robert C. Fulford, is comprised of ground, aviation and logistics combat elements, which include Battalion Landing Team 2/6, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 (Reinforced), and Combat Logistics Battalion 26. During its pre-deployment training and subsequent deployment, the MEU will embark and work alongside its Navy counterparts aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), USS Arlington (LPD-24), and USS Oak Hill (LSD-51).
The Marine Corps relies heavily on Marine Expeditionary Units to complete security and stability operations throughout the world. The 26th MEU is one of three MEUs based on the East Coast. The ARG/MEU team will form a forward-deployed, rapid-response team trained to handle a variety of crisis situations ranging from full-scale combat operations to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The unit is scheduled to conduct operations and exercises throughout the U.S. European, Africa, and Central Command areas of responsibility.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford said the number of crises around the world is increasing, but the requirements of the Corps remain the same.
“The current operating environment is volatile and complex,” said Dunford in his written planning guidance to Marines. “There are no indications that the future will be any less challenging or the demand for Marines will decrease.”
Dunford said MEUs will remain as one of the bridges between crisis and response.
The 26th MEU command element recently returned from a 6-month deployment where it performed command and control functions for the Spain-based Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response – Africa in the U.S. Europe and Africa Command areas of responsibility. Unlike the ground-based crisis response forces, MEUs are larger, sea-based, MAGTFs that have organic fixed and rotary wing close air support and assault support aircraft, artillery, tanks, and amphibious assault vehicles among other equipment that allow it to project power ashore from Naval shipping in response to crisis around the world.
"The world is in a constant state of change,” said Fulford. “As a nation, we face uncertain security challenges every day. Over the next six months, the 26th MEU partnered with the Kearsarge ARG will build a cohesive and combat effective Marine Air-Ground Task Force capable of operating across the range of military operations from sea-based platforms offering national leaders a truly unique, flexible, and scalable crisis-response force.”
Fulford added as a sea-based force, MEU’s can position themselves near an area of instability given indications of a potential crisis, shortening their response-time by providing an over-the-horizon capability and launching with-in a 6-hour timeframe.