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13th Marine Expeditionary Unit
"The Fighting Thirteenth"

The (MEU) is the smallest of the MAGTFs. Together with U.S. Navy forces, this team serves as the nation’s forward deployed, quick-response team, capable of accomplishing numerous missions around the globe.

The MEU, directed by a single commander, is comprised of about 2,100 Marines and Sailors, embarked aboard three ships configured as an Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), which is commanded by an Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON).

The 13th MEU, working with a PHIBRON and a LHA/LSD naval vessel comprises one such Navy/Marine Corps team. They are one of the three West Coast based ESG/MEUs from Camp Pendleton and San Diego, Calif. These units are routinely rotated through the Western Pacific/Southwest Asia region for six months at a time.
The GCE for the 13th MEU will be identified and attached to the MEU approximately 180 days before the deployment. About 1,200 strong, it is based on the infantry battalion. It is reinforced with an artillery battery, amphibious assault vehicle platoon, combat engineer platoon, light armored reconnaissance company, an M1A1 Main Battle Tank platoon and a reconnaissance platoon.

The final major element of the MEU is the MEU Service Support Group. About 300 Marines and Sailors of the MSSG provide combat support, specifically supply; maintenance; transportation; explosive ordnance disposal; military police; water production and distribution; engineering; medical and dental services; fuel storage and distribution; and other services to the deployed MEU. The MSSG gives the MEU the ability to support itself for 15 days in austere expeditionary environments.

The air-ground task -force concept is designed to thoroughly exploit the combat power inherent in air and ground assets by closely integrating them into a single force. The MEU brings what it needs to sustain itself from the sea for the rapid accomplishment of the mission or to pave the way for follow-on forces. The size and composition of the MEU make it well suited for amphibious operations; security operations; noncombatant evacuation operations; humanitarian assistance operations; and special operations.

Contingent upon "real world" situations, prior to deployment each MEU is thoroughly trained in 23 unique capabilities during a fast-paced, six month work-up cycle that includes three-to- five at-sea training periods.


Since World War II, in nearly every crisis, the United States Marine Corps has deployed projection forces, with the ability to move ashore with sufficient sustainability for prolonged operations. These forces have been organized into Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTF) a combination of air, ground, and support assets.

MAGTFs are established for specific missions, or in anticipation of a wide range of possible missions. Combining air, ground, and logistic assets maximizes the combat power of each of the war fighting elements.

MAGTFs have long provided the United States with a broad spectrum of response options when U.S. and allied interests have been threatened and in non-combat situations which require instant response to crisis. Selective, timely and credible commitment of air-ground units have, on many occasions, helped bring stability to a region and sent signals worldwide to aggressors that the United States is willing to defend its interests, and is able to do so with a significantly powerful force on extremely short notice.


  • Amphibious Assault

  • Amphibious Raid

  • Amphibious Demonstration

  • Amphibious Withdrawal


  • Direct Action

    • Seizure/Recovery of Offshore Energy Facilities (GOPLAT)

    • Vessel Boarding Search and Seizure Operations (VBSS)

  • Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP)


  • Peace Operations

    • Peacekeeping

    • Peace Enforcement

  • Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO)

  • Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief


  • Rapid Response Planning

  • Terminal Guidance Operations

  • Enhanced Urban Operations

  • Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance

    • Reconnaissance and Surveillance

    • Counter Intelligence

    • Signals Intelligence

  • Fire Support Planning, Coordination, Control in a Joint/Combined Environment

  • Provide Command, Control, Communications, Computers

  • Airfield/Port Seizure

  • Limited Expeditionary Airfield Operations

  • Security Operations

  • Enabling Operations

    • Joint Task Force Enabler

    • Chemical Biological Assessment

    • Maritime Preposition Force Enabler

    • Follow-on-Force Enabler

    • Special Operations Force Enabler

  • Employ Non-lethal Weapons

  • Tactical Deception

  • Information Operations

    • Electronic Warfare

  • Anti-terrorism

The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) was activated Feb. 1, 1985, at Camp Pendleton, Calif., as the 13th Amphibious Unit, Fleet Marine Force and assigned to I Marine Amphibious Force. The unit was redesigned on Feb. 5, 1988, as 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Between 1988 and 1995, the 13th MEU participated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Southwest Asia, from September to November 1990, and January through March 1991, respectively. The unit also participated in Operation United Shield, Somalia, from February through March 1995.

Between 1996 and 2007, the 13th MEU participated in Operation Southern Watch, Southwest Asia, in August 1996, December 1997 through  January 1998, and October through December 2000. The 13th MEU also participated in Humanitarian Assistance Operations, East Timor, in September 2000, Operation Determined Response, Yemen, from October 2000 through January 2001, and Maritime intercept operations in the Northern Arabian Gulf, in December 2000.

The 13th MEU also participated in Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan, from January through May 2002 and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq, in October 2003, October through December 2005 and from June through September 2007.

The 13th MEU deployed for seven months during Western Pacific Deployment 16-1, from February through September 2016, conducting exercises, theater security cooperation events, and postured to support the Theater Commanders in response to crisis. 

From June 2018 to March 2019, the Unit participated in a Western Pacific Deployment 18-2. During this time, the 13th MEU most notably few the first F-35 combat operations in history.

From June 2020 to February 2021, the 13th MEU command element deployed as the command element for Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command 20.2. The unit provided an on-call crisis response capability across U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility. In addition to training several countries, to include Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, the unit provided support to both Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria and Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan.

13th Marine Expeditionary Unit