Croatian Defense Dignitary Visits West Coast MEU
By Coproral Joseph R. Chenelly
| | May 14, 2001
ABOARD USS PELELIU -- The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit hosted Croatia's Assistant Minister of Defense aboard ship during the MEU's first at sea exercise May 1, 2001.
Minister Ivan Kozlica discussed the MEU's organization, role and training during his visit.
As the Minister debarked a Landing Craft Air Cushion in the ship's well deck, Col. Thomas Waldauser, the 15th MEU commanding officer, greeted him.
Minister Kozlica was led to the ship's Flag Bridge to watch AV-8B Harrier Jets taking off and landing on the ship's flight deck. Through a translator, LtCol. James K. LaVine, the commanding officer of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-163 (reinforced), explained the responsibility and composition of the MEU's Aviation Combat Element.
The guest was especially interested in the Harrier Jet. He asked several questions about the physics behind the plane's unique capability to vertically takeoff and land.
Minister Kozlica was then escorted to the ship's hangar bay. Lieutenant Col. Christopher M. Bourne, the commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team 1/1, and several of his Marines displayed several weapons the MEU's Ground Combat Element boast.
The Javelin Missile System, the Corps' new anti-armor weapon system, was featured. The Minister was able to hold and look through the sites of the Javelin and other weapons, as Marines explained each weapon's characteristics.
The Assistant Minister of Defense then accompanied the MEU commanding officer to his stateroom. There they discussed how policy affects the force structure of MEUs and how training is conducted for specific missions.
The visit with the MEU aboard the Peleliu was a first for the Croatian Minister.
"I actually visited other ships in the 6th Fleet, but that was in international waters," Minister Kozlica said through his translator. "This is the first time I have been on a U.S. ship in the Pacific. I never thought this would happen."
Croatia and U.S. Marines conduct joint training exercises in Croatia.
"A very important matter in the Ministry is international cooperation, especially with the United States," Minister Kozlica said. "Sixty percent of our international military cooperation is with the U.S."
Besides his visit with the MEU, Minister Kozlica met with several other U.S. defense dignitaries during his visit to the U.S.
"There were two primary purposes of my visit," Minister Kozlica explained. "To meet with those I am in contact with through the Ministry of Defense and to get to know this big and beautiful country."
For more information, articles and photos on the 15th MEU, visit http://www.usmc.mil/15meu