13th MEU Forward Command Element moves to Los Alamitos 'Embassy'

12 Jun 2005 | Cpl. Andy Hurt

Members of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed to the "U.S. Embassy" here Friday night from the USS TARAWA(LHA-1).

The Marines are part of the Forward Command Element, a collective of communications and intelligence assets designed to provide a liaison to the 13th MEU and Expeditionary Strike Group-1.  They also coordinate peacekeeping efforts directly with ambassadors and local leaders. The movement is part of the 13th MEU’s Special Operations Capable Exercise (SOCEX).

As the convoy carrying Marines from the airfield neared the "Embassy", protestors lined the streets. Pounding on the vehicles with their fists and shouting anti-American slogans, the protestors made it clear that the U.S. was not welcome.

Sgt. Jonathan Byrne, data chief, FCE, went to work setting up communications with the ship. Using an International Maritime Satellite, Byrne said he opened a remote access server and sent encrypted message traffic back to the Landing Forces Operation Center (LFOC) aboard the ship.

With communications set up, the Marines were then briefed by Lt. Col. Andrew Blackhurst, executive officer, 13th MEU, on how the exercise was set up. He later explained to the Marines who had never worked in an FCE how the embassy functions.

Within the embassy is a carefully constructed order of business and personnel, known as the “Country Team.”

The Ambassador is similar to the commanding officer. He oversees all operations and business conducted within the embassy.

With eyes focused on the inside and outer area of the embassy is the Regional Security officer. The RSO conducts around-the-clock security operations regarding the embassy, and monitors the local populace in search of espionage and possible terrorist activity.

Military force is monitored and forecasted by the Defense Attaché and Military Liaison Officer. The Defense Attaché is the senior military advisor to the ambassador, while the Military Liaison Officer is tasked with overseeing the financial and logistical aspects of buying and selling military equipment in the host nation.

The Political Officer monitors the ebb and flow of the political tides within the host nation, then advises the ambassador on current attitudes and how they could roll out under decisions and actions taken by the U.S.

Consulate and Administrative Officers watch over the details of the personnel within the embassy, along with the responsibility of passport, visa and immigration protocol.

The organization of the embassy, coupled with the offshore presence of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, form a strong military and diplomatic presence within regions of unrest throughout the world. The training scenario has been drawn from pieces of the past, and on-going operations throughout the globe have been examined to help tailor this mission to very life-like proportions.

Personnel from the Department of State, and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Tactical Evaluation Control are on hand to evaluate the 13th MEU’s performance while they take another step toward a "Special Operations Capable" designation.

For more information about the "Fighting 13th" Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the unit's Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.

13th Marine Expeditionary Unit