FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. --
U.S. Marines and sailors with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted realistic urban training at several locations in California Dec. 5-16 to prepare the unit for its deployment to the Western Pacific and Middle East next spring.
Normally based out of Camp Pendleton, the MEU operated from bases including Fort Hunter Liggett and Camp Roberts near Monterey, Calif., Twentynine Palms, and conducted operations in downtown Los Angeles, outside Van Nuys, Calif., and at ranges near Flagstaff, Ariz.
The combination of these disparate and widely distributed locations supports mission-essential training and brings a dimension of urban realism not found on a singular military base.
The MEU is composed of a command element and three major subordinate elements. RUT gives these elements the opportunity to work together and prepare for what they may face during deployment.
“This is our first chance to really integrate with the [air combat element] and most of the MEU staff,” said Sgt. Bradley Gascon, an assistant radio operator with the 15th MEU’s Force Reconnaissance Detachment. “All of these guys are used to working to the beat of their own drum and now we’re trying to take five or six drums and put them in sync.”
The MEU’s subordinate elements are Battalion Landing Team 3/1, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (Reinforced) and Combat Logistics Battalion 15, the ground, aviation and logistics elements respectively. Working all of the elements together requires more intricate planning procedures.
“It’s definitely more complex,” Gascon said. “But I think with everyone sitting in the same [rehearsal of concept]-walks, rehearsals and briefs; it’s like one giant machine, everything is working together. Prior to us even hitting the deck, everyone is [confident] about what is going to happen and it works really well; everyone works well together.”
Colonel Vance Cryer, the 15th MEU’s commanding officer, said this training is a transition from their basic training phase where individual units are working on their own core skills to an intermediate phase where they all work together to accomplish a mission.
This phase required the Marines to conduct several different types of training to prepare for deployment. Marines with the MRF conducted three precision raids in places throughout California, including the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. These raids required Marines with the ACE, BLT and raid force to work together to complete a mission.
Marines with the ACE and BLT practiced tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel missions as well as combined-armed exercises utilizing indirect fire, air support and machine guns. The BLT also conducted embassy reinforcement exercises and Marines with CLB 15 practiced rapidly constructing buildings.
Working elements together was a new challenge for the 15th MEU which will help them with further training and deployment.
“The strategies, training and mental agility that we’re building into the Marines during RUT is to give them the ability to work through those complexities with resiliency strategies and [the ability] to respond,” Cryer said. “We can’t prevent every action of the enemy, we can’t prevent every attack. But we can respond in an effective manner that is in keeping with our nation's interest and in keeping with the level of response that’s appropriate for the incident.”
The Marines also participated in bilateral training with British Royal Marines and role players. They also had to work with different local governments since missions were conducted in areas such as Los Angeles. This simulated working with different host nation they could deal with during deployment.
“We’re here rehearsing, practicing and refining our standard operating procedures and becoming very good at these complicated mission sets,” Cryer said. “Even in the coordination to set up an exercise like this; we get a lot out of that [because] as we float and go around the world and work with those other nations, we have to work with their government agencies that are very different than our own.”
The 15th MEU is scheduled to keep working together during exercises such as RUT until their deployment in the spring.