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15th Marine Expeditionary Unit


15th Marine Expeditionary Unit


Camp Pendleton, CA
Unit News
LtCol Thomas E. Elders Executive Officer, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Lieutenant Colonel Elders was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on May 22, 1998, after graduating from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor’s of Science (History Major).

After completing The Basic School and Infantry Officer Course in Quantico, Virginia, he reported to the Third Marine Regiment, Kaneohe Bay, HI where he served as a rifle platoon commander, company executive officer, battalion training officer, and battalion liaison officer with the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines from August 1999 to December 2002. During this period, he participated in two 7-month unit deployments to Okinawa, Japan, where he conducted training and exercises in South Korea; Fuji, Japan; and Republic of Philippines.  

In December of 2002, LtCol Elders received orders to Okinawa, Japan, where he served as the Assistant Operations Officer and Assistant Branch Head, Expeditionary Warfare Branch, Special Operations Training Group (SOTG), III Marine Expeditionary Force. During this tour, he supported the training of four cycles of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and multiple infantry battalions forward deployed to Okinawa, Japan. Additionally, he deployed to OPERATION IRAQ FREEDOM II.2 as an individual augment, where he served as Ground Watch Officer, G-3, III Marine Aircraft Wing, Al Asad, Iraq. In July 2005, he departed SOTG to attend Expeditionary Warfare School, where he graduated in May 2006.

In June 2006, LtCol Elders assumed command of the Company K, 3d Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. In April 2007, Major Elders and Company K (as part of Battalion Landing Team 3/1) deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) aboard USS BONHOMME RICHARD (LHD-6) Expeditionary Strike Group from San Diego, California and participated in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM 06-08.  In January 2008, LtCol Elders relinquished command of Company K. He assumed duties as Team Chief, Battalion Military Transition Team 0723 and was deployed to Iraq from May to November 2008. In December 2008, LtCol Elders assumed duties as Staff Secretary, 1st Marine Division.

LtCol Elders assumed command of Second Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) Company, Marine Corps Security Forces Regiment, Yorktown, Virginia in July 2009. From July 2010 to April 2011, LtCol Elders deployed to Yokosuka, Japan to serve as Commanding Officer, FAST Company Pacific. While deployed, he participated in Operation TOMODACHI and PACIFIC PASSAGE and numerous theater security cooperation exercises.

In July 2011, LtCol Elders relinquished command and reported to 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, II MEF, Camp Lejeune, NC for duty as Assistant Operations Officer. From March to December 2012, LtCol Elders was deployed to EUCOM, AFRICOM, and CENTCOM areas of responsibility with 24th MEU / USS IWO JIMA ARG. 

In June 2013, LtCol Elders assumed duties as Operations Officer, II MEF Expeditionary Operations Training Group.  Until August 2015, he was directly responsible for the coordination and execution of 22d, 24th, and 26th MEUs Pre-Deployment Training Program and certification. Additionally, he had a role in the development and coordination of training for Special Purpose Marine-Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response Africa.

In August 2015, LtCol Elders reported to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Expeditionary Warfare Division (OPNAV N95) for duty as Budget and Requirements Officer for Naval Special Warfare Branch (N951).

LtCol Elders assumed his current position as Executive Officer, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit / Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response Central Command 19.1 in July 2018.

LtCol Elders is a graduate of US Army Basic Jump School, US Navy Basic Scuba Diver’s Course, Winter Mountain Leader’s Course, Expeditionary Warfare School, and I MEF Combat Advisor Course. He holds a Masters of Business Administration from the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School.

LtCol Elders’ personal awards include the Meritorious Service Medal (with 3 Gold Star), Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal (with 2 Gold Star), the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and the Humanitarian Service Medal.