The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU) is one of seven Marine Expeditionary Units currently in existence in the United States Marine Corps. The Marine Expeditionary Unit is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force with a strength of about 2,200 personnel. The MEU consists of four major parts: a command element, a ground combat element, an aviation combat element, and a logistics combat element. The 15th MEU is based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.
The Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is a term used by the United States Marine Corps to describe the principal organization for all missions across the range of military operations. MAGTFs are a balanced air-ground, combined arms task organization of Marine Corps forces under a single commander that is structured to accomplish a specific mission. The MAGTF was formalized by the publishing of Marine Corps Order 3120.3 in December of 1963. It stated: A Marine air-ground task force with separate air ground headquarters is normally formed for combat operations and training exercises in which substantial combat forces of both Marine aviation and Marine ground units are included in the task organization of participating Marine forces.
Since World War II in many crisis' the United States Marine Corps has deployed projection forces, with the ability to move ashore with sufficient sustainability for prolonged operations. MAGTFs have long provided the United States with a broad spectrum of response options when U.S. and allied interests have been threatened and in non-combat situations which require instant response to crisis. Selective, timely and credible commitment of air-ground units have, on many occasions, helped bring stability to a region and sent signals worldwide that the United States is willing to defend its interests, and is able to do so with a significantly powerful force on extremely short notice.
The four core elements the Marine Air-Ground Task Force are :
The Command Element (CE), a headquarters unit that directs the other elements.
The Ground Combat Element (GCE), usually comprising infantry, supported by armor (tanks), and artillery, but may also include special units such as scouts or Force Reconnaissance, snipers and forward air controllers.
The Aviation Combat Element (ACE), which contributes the air power to the MAGTF. The ACE includes all aircraft (both fixed wing and helicopters), their pilots and maintenance personnel, and those units necessary for aviation command and control.
The Logistics Combat Element (LCE), contains all of the support units for the MAGTF: communications, combat engineers, motor transport, medical, supply units, and certain specialized groups such as air delivery and landing support teams.
The four core elements describe types of forces needed and not actual military units or commands. The basic structure of the MAGTF never varies, though the number, size, and type of Marine Corps units comprising each of its four elements will always be mission dependent. The flexibility of the organizational structure allows for one or more subordinate MAGTFs to be assigned.
The MEU, Commanded by a Marine Colonel, is the smallest of the MAGTFs and is comprised of about 2,200 Marines and Sailors. The MEU's major elements are the Command Element (CE), the Ground Combat Element (GCE), the Aviation Combat Element (ACE), and the Logistics Combat Element (LCE).
The Command Element (CE)
The CE is comprised of the commanding officer and supporting staff -- about 200 Marines and Sailors. . It provides the command and coordination essential for effective planning and execution of operations and synchronizes the actions of each element within the MEU.
Ground Combat Element (GCE)
The GCE is comprised of about 1,200, and is built around an infantry battalion that provides the over-land combat power for the MEU. Assets inherent within the standard infantry battalion include medium and heavy machine guns, mortars, combined anti-armor teams (CAAT) and scout snipers. While assigned to the MEU, the unit, designated ‘Battalion Landing Team’, is reinforced with light armored reconnaissance vehicles (LAV), tanks, artillery, combat engineers and assault amphibian vehicles (AAV).
Aviation Combat Element (ACE)
The ACE is a composite squadron that provides the MEU medium to heavy lift capability, assault support and close air support (CAS). Although the aviation element carries the name of the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron assigned to the MEU, its assets include CH-46E Sea Knight medium lift helicopters, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopters, AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunships, UH-1N Huey utility helicopters and AV-8B Harrier jump jets. With a force strength of approximately 500, the ACE includes air traffic control, aircraft maintenance/support and aviation logistics/supply capabilities.
Logistics Combat Element (LCE)
About 300 Marines and Sailors of the LCE provide combat support such as supply, maintenance, transportation, explosive ordnance disposal, military police, water production and distribution, engineering, medical and dental services, fuel storage and distribution, and other services to the deployed MEU. The LCE gives the MEU the ability to support itself for 15 days in austere expeditionary environments.
Marines and Sailors of the MEU are embarked aboard three amphibious ships, designated as an Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) commanded by a Navy Captain, who bears the title of Commodore. Joined together, the MEU and PHIBRON are designated as an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). Together, with its Navy brethren the MEU serves as the Nation’s forward deployed, quick response team, capable of accomplishing numerous missions around the globe.
The size and composition of the MEU makes it well suited for amphibious operations; security operations; noncombatant operations or civilians threatened by, or suffering from, violence; and service as mobile training teams. The MEU is an expeditionary force in nature, able to operate in foreign lands without U.S. bases and facilities. It is naval in character, useful in conventional operations in the air and ashore, and is able to operate with U.S. fleets around the world. The MEUs combined arms team bears substantial force and is capable of a high degree of tactical mobility while delivering significant, sustained firepower within an objective area.
Seizure/recovery of offshore energy facilities (goplat)
Vessel boarding search and seizure operations (vbss)
Tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (trap)
Noncombatant evacuation operations (neo)
Humanitarian assistance/disaster relief
Rapid response planning
Terminal guidance operations
Enhanced urban operations
Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
Reconnaissance and surveillance
Fire support planning, coordination, control in a joint/combined environment
Provide command, control, communications, computers
Limited expeditionary airfield operations
Joint task force enabler
Chemical biological assessment
Maritime preposition force enabler
Special operations force enabler
Employ non-lethal weapons
In April 1983, the Commandant of the Marine Corps approved the original Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Headquarters concept, providing the sourcing for two Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) headquarters.
The Commandant directed the establishment of two additional MAU headquarters in November 1985. As a result, the Headquarters of the 15th MAU was activated July 1, 1987, on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.
The Commandant directed the replacement of the title "Headquarters" with "Command Element" in the titles of the MAGTFs in August 1987. The 15th MAU’s designation was further changed in February 1988 to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); both changes were made to accurately reflect the operational and expeditionary nature of the MAGTF.
Since its activation, the 15th MEU has trained to provide a continuous presence in the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf, and as a ready MAGTF for the continental United States.
Below is an overview of operations 15th MEU has supported since its activation, for a detailed history please click here.