MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- When one evokes the image of a Marine, one often thinks of the typical grunt storming beaches from the sea. While this image rings true for the Corps after all these years, many types of battlefields have evolved since the days of John Wayne’s “Sands of Iwo Jima”.
PHIBRON MEU Integration or PMINT required the Marines and Sailors of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit to train in versatile operations on a global scale.
From June 9-28, 2013, the Marines and Sailors of the Fighting 13th joined Boxer Amphibious Ready Group for PMINT, a pre-deployment exercise that tested their ability to conduct multiple missions near simultaneously. These included airfield seizure operations, noncombatant evacuation, embassy reinforcement, amphibious and vertical raids and counter-piracy operations to name a few. PMINT marks the first of three consecutive sea-based exercises.
While many units who train for combat zone deployments focus on combat arms and duties specific to the nation they are supporting, a MEU’s strengths lie in their versatility. One week, Marines could find themselves in a country performing humanitarian assistance. The next, they could be in a different country training foreign militaries to better defend themselves.
“It’s been nice to put some of the stresses of garrison life behind and focus on working with my Marines, focus on getting better,” said Lance Cpl. Bryan N. Ray, a scout with Light Armored Reconnaissance Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 13th MEU and Champaign, Ill. native. “I’ve definitely been tested a lot through the past months of training, but this is nothing new; just building on what we’ve learned.”
For three weeks, the 13th MEU embarked aboard USS Boxer (LHD-4) an amphibious assault ship, USS New Orleans (LPD-18), an amphibious transport dock ship and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) an amphibious dock landing ship. These ships provide the Fighting 13th the means to bring with them aid, firepower and resources to operate from the ocean independently or as part of a larger naval force.
The Navy’s flexible and independent assets also complement the 13th MEU’s own elements. Battalion Landing Team 1/4, a large infantry unit strengthened with mechanized and artillery assets can launch a bevy of operations both offensive and passive.
Combat Logistics Battalion 13 provides the MEU with tools and personnel to sustain the Marines and Sailors where they go, whether their needs be fuel, food, water or other expeditionary sustainment.
Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (Reinforced) serves as the MEU’s air combat element. Multiple types of aircraft are equipped to launch missions hundreds of miles from ship, give the Fighting 13th the options to support the Leathernecks on the ground. Aircraft such as the MV-22B “Osprey” provides troop transport or the AH-1Z “Viper” can provide close air support to grunts on the ground.
Each of these three supporting elements of the MEU can be interchanged and customized to meet the mission at hand. Many of the Companies and platoons also share mission capabilities to bring even more versatility.
“We cross train across the [Marine Air-Ground Task Force] in order to have agility,” said Col. Christopher D. Taylor, commanding officer of the 13th MEU. “For example our motorized company that is in gun trucks…also trains in rubber boat [combat rubber raiding craft] entry and vertical assault in MV-22B [“Osprey’s”] and aircraft. LAR isn’t just a reconnaissance asset, they cross task organize as a raid force, striking force with speed and lethality.”
In order for the Marines to go ashore and for pilots to fly missions to support them, many others stayed on ship to keep processes and tasks running smoothly. Maintainers and crew chiefs kept the aircraft in good health while others worked around the clock analyzing and mulling over data and networks to keep information flowing.
“It’s most definitely a challenge keeping aircraft flying on ship,” said Cpl. Kendall F. Mawyer, AV-8B Harrier II airframes mechanic with VMM-166 (Rein) and Waynesboro, Virg. native. “You have to be resourceful and use things sparingly because you won’t always have an easy time getting parts or supplies in the middle of the ocean. The Navy has been a huge help for us though.”
Conducting PMINT is nothing new for a MEU who has more than 25 years of experience deploying throughout the globe. However, for this exercise the 13th MEU delivered simultaneous support of Exercise Dawn Blitz 2013.
“Normally PMINT is a three week pre-deployment exercise focused on combined Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Ready Group capabilities and the strengthening of our Navy and Marine Corps Team,” said Taylor. “Dawn Blitz is an important continuation of the Marine Corps’ large force MEB level training cycle and our bilateral US and Japanese theater security cooperation interoperability training. This training allows us to sustain our elevated state of readiness and maintain our status as the Nation’s contingency response force.”
With PMINT concluded, the Marines will spend a very short time ashore preparing for the next at sea period, Composite Training Unit Exercise. This will help the Navy Marine Corps Team better practice planning and execution of missions.
Marines of the past have cemented the Corp’s legacy with their bravery and skill on the beaches; the 13th MEU’s Marines training for deployment today are striving to carry that legacy whenever or wherever they are needed. This is part one in an ongoing series chronicling the pre-deployment training of the 13th MEU.