Marines and Sailors from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and America Amphibious Ready Group boarded their three respective ships, May 30, 2017, for their final at-sea exercise of their pre-deployment training period, Certification Exercise. CERTEX is the culmination of the rigorous six-month workup cycle the 15th MEU completed to build proficiency in skill sets, cohesion with their Navy counterparts, and the ability to conduct a set of mission essential tasks that give them the green light to deploy.
In addition to this being an evaluation of the 15th MEU’s developed aptitude, it is also an opportunity to demonstrate its capabilities in support of fleet and combatant commanders around the world across the full range of military operations.
“How will your team do it?”
This is the question the I Marine Expeditionary Force’s Deputy Commanding General, Maj. Gen. David Coffman, posed to the members of the blue-green team who sat before him, preparing to start their first iteration of pre-deployment training, the Rapid Response Planning Process, back in Jan. 20, 2017.
“Assume complex, contested five-domain environments, and make sure you can operate in all five,” stated Coffman. “This brings you a lot of risk and great opportunities. You are going to figure out how to thrive in chaos.”
CERTEX delivered just the right blend of chaos, and the blue-green team delivered. The exercise began at a simulated embassy, where the MEU-ARG was tasked with conducting a series of missions to support the Department of State during a time of unrest. The 15th MEU was able to demonstrate the ability to reinforce an embassy, assist nongovernment organizations in providing humanitarian assistance and provide the capabilities to evacuate American citizens from a deteriorating security situation. The execution of this particular mission set is especially relevant as the preceding 11th MEU was tasked to support the embassy in Juba, South Sudan, during OPERATION OAKEN STEEL.
Quickly transitioning to the next set of missions, a series of more offensive operations were conducted, to include Visit, Board, Search and Seizures of a hostile vessel, long-range raids composed of multiple infantry companies and air assets, airfield seizures and amphibious assaults.
“There is no benign environment in the maritime domain,” said Capt. Rome Ruiz the commodore of the America ARG, as he was addressing the blue-green team during the final CERTEX debrief. “We’ve got to be really good, we can’t be lucky. We’ve turned over every rock we could have to learn the things we are strong at and the things we can keep improving on,” he added.
The Blue-Green team has practiced various mission sets since the beginning of the workup cycle, but they have grown in complexity and size. Pushing its capabilities to the limit is what will prepare this MEU for operations similar to what its counterparts have seen during their deployments, such as the 11th and 24th MEU’s support to the Raqqa Offensive in Syria.
The MEU approaches its exercise cycle with a crawl-walk-run method and began ashore nearly six months ago with the Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise and Realistic Urban Training. MEUEX was the first large-scale exercise conducted where the Command Element flexed its command-and-control muscles and the first time the 15th MEU operated as a composite unit aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif. Realistic Urban Training allowed the MEU to deploy to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., and begin conducting long-range ground and aviation missions from an forward operating base in austere environment.
From there, the MEU embarked aboard the three vessels that comprise the America Amphibious Ready, USS America, USS San Diego, and USS Pearl Harbor to conduct Amphibious Squadron-Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration, which was the first time the MEU conducted missions while embarked aboard naval vessels moving battalions of Marines and their equipment from ship to shore.
During Composite Training Unit Exercise the MEU to developed additional proficiency in kinetic operations as well as practiced repetitions of humanitarian assistance, embassy reinforcement and non-combatant evacuations while integrating with DoS and NGO staff members.
Pre-deployment training evolutions enabled the MEU to conduct complex operations from sea to shore under the full range of military operations expected of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force at an impressive proficiency level for its upcoming 17-2 Western Pacific Deployment.
As the 17-2 deployment quickly approaches, the Marines and Sailors of the 15th MEU and America ARG, are tried, tested, and proven, and look forward to the next chapter where they will be poised for any mission in any clime or any place.
“This team is ready to deploy,” said Col. Joseph Clearfield, the 15th MEU commanding officer. “We’ve been safe and executed our missions well during a dynamic pre-deployment work up cycle. We are ready if our Nation or Allies need us for a crisis or contingency and I am confident we'll make people proud.”