LOS ALAMITOS AIRPORT, Claif. -- U.S. Marines and sailors with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, simulated evacuating more than 400 U.S. citizens to Los Alamitos Airport during a noncombatant evacuation as part of Certification Exercise, Dec. 8, 2015.
During CERTEX - and in all of the MEU’s pre-deployment packages since August - the 13th MEU has been conducting operations in the fictional country of Black and the regions surrounding it, actively executing missions across the range of military operations.
Within the exercise, the U.S. Secretary of Defense ordered an evacuation of U.S. Embassy Black after requests citing increased anti-American sentiments and violent protests in the region. The Marines' aggressive defensive posturing successfully deterred any attempts to disrupt the evacuation or the return of U.S. citizens
“The men and women who came through are safe on their way home, and that was the end state," said 1st Lt. Michael Stukel, the Evacuation Control Center officer-in-charge. “There were no incidents today, and that’s a great thing.”
Noncombatant evacuations like this are a combined effort of the multiple elements of the 13th MEU as well as one of its mission essential tasks that can be completed within hours of notification.
During the operation, Fighting 13th Marines manned a secure entry control point for evacuees, doing preliminary screening for explosives and weapons before letting them into the compound.
“For an evacuation, our priority is definitely to get [the evacuees] through quickly,” said Sgt. Ryan Miller, a military dog handler with the 13th MEU, who led his explosive detection dog through the droves of people at the Evacuee Collection Center. “But we can never sacrifice safety for speed. Not even once. Everyone gets checked, and the people relax a little knowing it’s safer on the other side.”
MEU Marines stood up an evacuation collection center beside the airfield to process and manifest evacuees for flights returning stateside, as well as provided air support with CH-53E Super Stallion and MV-22 Osprey aircraft to transport equipment and personnel required for the operation.
For more than six hours, the Marines received and oriented the evacuees, guiding them through a five-part screening process designed to keep accountability of large numbers of persons, verify citizenship and get them home.
CERTEX is the final exercise and evaluation in the MEU’s preparation for deployment to the Pacific and Central Command areas of responsibility next year. Once certified capable of completing its mission essential tasks, the Fighting 13th MEU will move forward manned, trained and equipped as a force in readiness able to respond to crisis anywhere in the world.