ABOARD THE USS TARAWA (LHA-1) -- The sounds of anchor chains rumbled through the narrow halls of the USS Tarawa Wednesday morning, signaling the final at-sea period for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit during pre-deployment work-up training.
The Special Operations Capable Exercise will determine whether the MEU is qualified to accomplish specialized amphibious operations while they endure the upcoming Western Pacific deployment, scheduled for mid-July through early 2006.
Each element of the MEU, including MEU Service Support Group-13, Battalion Landing Team 2/1, and the reinforced Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 will be executing pre-planned training missions evaluated by the Special Operations Training Group in the hopes of gaining a “SOC” certification, branding the unit “Special Operations Capable.”
Throughout the six-month work-up cycle, which began in January, the 13th MEU has trained in an Urban Environment, worked as a collective force, trained with the Naval Expeditionary Strike Group 1 and employed itself as a fully-functioning Marine Air-Ground Task Force to prepare for real-world situations the unit may face during the
deployment as the world’s “911 force in readiness.”
Essentially, the MEU is comprised of four elements that are easily compared to the functions of an individual warrior.
The central nervous system is the Command Element. Sections like S-3 Operations, S-6 Data Systems and S-4 Logistics work out the tedious details of specialized operations, including high-level coordination of the MEU Support Elements. The Command Element also includes the Maritime Special-Purpose Force and 1st Force Reconnaissance Platoon.
The heart and muscle of the 13th MEU is the Ground Combat Element. Filled by the warriors of
Battalion Landing Team 2nd battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, the GCE is the landing force in missions. The BLT is the main fighting effort in combat, security and raid missions.
The arms, legs and eyes of the MEU is the Air Combat Element, comprised of “Evil Eyes” Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (REIN). HMM-163 is fully equipped with CH-46 Sea Knights, CH-53E Super Stallions and AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters. AV-8B Harrier fighter jets from VMA-211 provide tactical reinforcements for the Squadron.
The blood of the MEU is MEU Service Support Group-13. The MSSG carries much needed supplies, including food, ammunition and medical supplies, to the MEU in forward operating areas. Without the constant movement and flow of MSSG operations, the MEU could not carry out its missions. The MSSG is also the spearhead of Humanitarian Assistance Operations.
The sum of the four elements is a MAGTF, a basic modern warfare strategic force that has become the essence the high-speed Navy/Marine Corps Team. Backed by the Navy’s ESG-1 ships, the MEU, if it succeeds during SOCEX, will be ready for almost anything.
For more information about the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.