NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
U.S. Marines and Sailors with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit began their Certification Exercise, the final stepping stone before deployment into the Pacific and Central areas of operation, Dec. 3, 2015.
“CERTEX is the final evaluation in a long road of pre-deployment training,” said Maj. Clark Purcell, air officer for the 13th MEU. “It’s an opportunity for the MEU and ARG to come together and execute the amphibious skillset we might be called on to execute while deployed.”
According to Purcell, the exercise serves multiple functions. During the CERTEX, evaluators will take a final look at the Fighting 13th and determine if the MEU is fit to deploy as scheduled based on its ability to execute mission essential tasks.
“The biggest challenge going into CERTEX is increased operational tempo, but we’re used to it by now,” said Lt. Col. Jackson Doan, operations officer for the 13th MEU, explaining how multiple complex events may occur at the same time. “The ability to conduct two different operations while planning another and supporting the logistical requirements of all three is a beast our Marines are very familiar with.”
The missions that will be presented during CERTEX align with the set of skills an MEU must have to be mission capable. Mission essential tasks include amphibious assaults from ship-to-shore, noncombatant evacuations, amphibious raids, air field seizures and more. If these tasks are not performed adequately, it may delay the MEU’s deployment.
“Going into this training, we realize we have to maintain proficiency and currency in all these skillsets,” Purcell said. “When you take a look at the tasks from foreign humanitarian operations all the way to full scale combat, they each require their own complex skillsets and will atrophy over time.”
To keep those skillsets sharp, the Expeditionary Operations Training Group — a training resource used for all Marine Air-Ground Task Forces rotating through deployments — develops and oversees complex scenarios that test several mission essential tasks at once. For instance, during a previous training exercise, EOTG set the stage for the MEU to conduct an embassy evacuation and injected an attack on the evacuation site, creating a mass casualty event. The group ensures uncertainty by limiting the number of Marines who have the full details of the events, identifying them as trusted agents.
By practicing essential tasks in realistic, challenging training like CERTEX, MEU Marines can prepare for scenarios they may face in real life such as the recent humanitarian assistance efforts in Nepal, including the recovery mission of a downed helicopter.
“As it stands right now, as a readiness force for the Marine Expeditionary Force, we are more than prepared and capable to complete CERTEX,” said Doan. “We’ve set ourselves up for success with our pre-deployment training package for this moment and beyond.”
CERTEX also serves as another opportunity for the 13th MEU’s command element and subordinate commands to integrate and work together to complete missions as they have done in training since August. With two successful at-sea-periods behind them, the Marines have become familiar with the challenges of embarking an entire Marine Air-Ground Task Force on ship, and can focus on accomplishing upcoming missions.
“Some people will say that our training ended during [Composite Training Unit Exercise] and we’re just at CERTEX to be certified, but if we sailed away today, without completing CERTEX, the Marines would lose a very, very important at sea period,” said Purcell. “They get another critical experience with integration of the MEU/ARG and this is the hallmark of pre-deployment training for us that prepares our Marines for the real deal.”
CERTEX is the finishing school for the “Fighting 13th" MEU in preparation for deployment to the Pacific and Central Command areas of responsibility next year.