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.