15th MEU, America ARG one step closer to deployment
By 2nd Lt. Maria Arnone and 1st Lt. Maida Zheng, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit
The America Amphibious Ready Group and 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit set sail for their second at-sea period, Composite Training Unit Exercise, May 1-17, 2017, where a series of missions both familiar and new were laid out before them, ready to be hurdled. The tasks ahead would be more complex and the pace the Navy-Marine Corps team would have to transport from ship-to-shore would be rapid, but when the ships pulled off the pier, the ARG/MEU came out of the gate running.
This training, emphasizing speed, simplicity and surprise, is building an elite combined-arms team prepared to thrive in uncertain, chaotic conditions with an expeditionary mindset bringing proven capabilities to combatant commanders to accomplish a wide range of tasks.
Through ship-to-shore connectors, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force is able to transport massive equipment and masses of supplies ashore, bearing the full force of kinetic combat power or humanitarian assistance – as applicable.
The training period began with the flex of the 15th MEU’s muscle as Marines from the Ground Combat Element conducted a large-scale raid on San Clemente Island. Combining MEU assets from all three ships of the ARG, Battalion Landing Team 1/5 leveraged support across the entire MAGTF to include transporting two full companies of Marines staged aboard USS America (LHA 6) and USS San Diego (LPD 22), as well as indirect fire support by delivering two M777 Howitzers from USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) to San Clemente Island; ultimately leaving the enemy forces occupying the island, hopeless.
“We are developing capabilities to better operate in a decentralized manner on complex terrain, and in the information environment,” said Col. Joseph Clearfield, 15th MEU commanding officer. “Decentralized operations win in combat, and everything we are doing leads to the operational and tactical synergy of our naval, air, and ground forces. The goal is a flexible, effective, and fearsome force – the enemy will not like seeing us on the battlefield.”
The ability for the Blue-Green team to cross wide expanses of ocean and remain off shore, striking an adversary from a place and time of choosing, enables the Landing Force Commander and ARG Commodore both maneuver space and a secure base for operations to support U.S. citizens and its allies against committed enemies or disasters that threaten the core of life as many innocent civilians around the world know it.
Redirecting their energy to providing humanitarian aid, the Blue-Green team rallied its subject matter experts, venturing to Los Angeles, Calif., to a simulated embassy for coordination with the Ambassador and his country team.
“We were asked to support by providing humanitarian assistance -- distributing water, food and hygiene kits to people in need,” said Lt. Col. Richard Alvarez, the officer in charge of the forward command element. “We also heightened security measures at the embassy in effort to keep the embassy personnel safe from rioters and outside threats.”
Ultimately the security situation in the country deteriorated to the extent that the Department of State issued an ordered departure of all U.S. citizens. It was then that Combat Logistics Battalion 15 was called in as the main effort to provide a military assisted departure, bringing U.S. citizens in the affected area to safety.
The 15th MEU partnered with the America Amphibious Ready Group is comprised of a team whose combined skill allows them to execute a variety of mission sets – from appropriately defending the amphibious task force, to disaster response and coordinated air and ground strikes.
“Every day posed new challenges requiring the MEU staff to work collaboratively with our Navy brothers and sisters,” said Maj. Jeff Brewer, the 15th MEU intelligence officer. “Exercise controllers did a tremendous job tying in mission accomplishment to the ability of Marines and Sailors to truly integrate. I have never been involved in an exercise where so much was riding on teamwork,” he added.
As COMPTUEX has come to an end, a lot has been accomplished and with each pre-deployment exercise, the 15th MEU and America ARG continue to prove a high level of readiness and ability to respond when called upon. COMPTUEX was just a small showing that the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and America Amphibious Ready Group are fit to go the distance as they approach their upcoming deployment.