MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit's pre-deployment workups, which concluded Aug. 8 with its Special Operations Capable/Joint Task Force exercise, featured several firsts.
The Fighting 13th was designated as the Strike Warfare Component of Expeditionary Strike Group-One, a seven-ship battle unit commanded by Navy Rear Adm. Robert Conway designed to provide a mobile, agile, lethal and flexible Navy-Marine force vital to the ongoing War on Terrorism.
The MEU's Combined Arms Exercise in April at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center 29 Palms marked the first time a MEU ever conducted a CAX.
And the recent SOCEX marked a rare opportunity for three MEU commanders to be together at once as one of them went through the Special Operations Capable certification enroute to a Western Pacific/Arabian Gulf deployment. Col. Anthony Haslam, 11th MEU, and Col. Thomas Greenwood, 15th MEU, were aboard USS PELELIU to respectively evaluate and observe Col. Mike Regner as his Marines and Sailors went through the SOC certification process.
Greenwood, who recently assumed command of the 15th, said he enjoyed one of his first assignments as CO.
"I?m honored and privileged to have command of this great unit, the 15th MEU, " said Greenwood. "And I knew before I went out that the 13th MEU was going to do great things, pushing the envelope like they did. My hat?s off to Colonel Regner and his entire MEU."
Haslam, whose 11th MEU returned from deployment in December only to turn around several weeks later and re-deploy as part of I MEF forces to Iraq, said he was impressed by the command displayed at all levels.
"I particularly noticed the strength of the Major Subordinate Element commanders," said Haslam, who served as the senior evaluator for the SOCEX. "They led from the front and were involved all the time in the planning and execution of the missions."
The three colonels, with 30 SOC certifications among them, noted there were indeed differences from prior SOCEXs, but that the new configuration also brought added assets to the fight.
"The challenge is the admiral has to look at the entire force and not just the MEU," said Haslam. "But you guys were able to do the things you needed to do, plus you had the added capabilities of the other ships, air assets and surveillance and reconnaissance tools that enhanced the ability to fight ashore. That extra capability is one of the benefits of the ESG."
"The 13th fought a much broader scenario, including air, sea, subsurface and land. It's probably a first for the Marine Corps. But I thought they made tremendous use of the additional assets, like using one of the smaller, faster ships to steam up the coast to drop off the reconnaissance team without having to move the whole ESG. I saw tremendous innovation and agility out there."
"This is such a great opportunity for the Marine Corps and for these commanders to be able to get out here," said Regner. "They are great leaders, they have outstanding Marines and Sailors working for them, and it always helps when you can observe someone else. Anything that benefits one MEU helps us all. It's one team, one fight."