ABOARD USS PELELIU -- The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit met every challenge thrown their way during the Special Operations Capable Exercise June 23 - July 2, earning the coveted SOC certification that will enable the unit to embark on its six-month Western Pacific deployment to the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf next month.
Concluding a high-tempo training cycle that began in February, the 15th MEU (SOC) successfully showcased its ability to conduct maritime special operations, amphibious operations, and military operations other than war to complete the rigorous, comprehensive certification process.
"Your efforts over the last five months of the pre-deployment training cycle not only resulted in an extremely safe and successful MEU (SOC) certification," Col. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commanding officer of the 15th MEU (SOC) told his Marines and Sailors, ?but it thoroughly prepared this MEU for any challenge it might face during the upcoming Western Pacific deployment."
The I Marine Expeditionary Force's G-7 provided a training scenario complete with hundreds of Marines from other units acting as enemy force aggressors as well as American citizens and third-country nationals. Department of State representatives also portrayed American embassy officials complete with a U.S. Ambassador to the notional country in which the MEU was operating.
The I MEF G-7's Tactical Exercise Control Group (TECG) and 13th MEU personnel evaluated the MEU throughout every phase of the exercise. The MEU staff was graded from the time the first warning order was passed down until the execution of the final mission nearly 10 days later. To maintain the maximum level of realism, the time and order in which each mission was assigned was kept secret.
The entire MEU embarked aboard the USS Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group for the duration of the exercise. From 50 miles at sea off the coast of Southern California, the MEU launched helicopters, Harrier jets and landing crafts from the flight and well decks of the USS Peleliu (LHA-5), USS Comstock (LSD-45) and USS Dubuque (LPD-8).
To best exercise the abilities of the 15th MEU (SOC)'s Ground Combat Element, Air Combat Element and Combat Service Support Element individually, each was tasked with complex training missions that involved one element assuming the lead in a mission inherent to their capabilities while the remaining elements provided crucial support. The rotation of responsibility continued throughout SOCEX's eight major mission profiles.
The MEU's Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF) executed a Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) on a vessel off the coast of Southern California and a Direct Action mission at Los Angeles' famed Ambassador Hotel. The MSPF is the MEU's core element that conducts select maritime special operation missions. The team is comprised of the MEU's Force Reconnaissance platoon, an infantry security platoon, battalion reconnaissance Marines, scout snipers and special detachments from the MEU's Command Element and MEU Service Support Group.
Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/1, commanded by LtCol. Christopher M. Bourne, conducted a boat raid on San Clemente Island, a long-range, helicopter-borne raid aboard Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command Twentynine Palms, Calif., a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) in the Mojave Desert, a Noncombatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) in Southern California and Nevada and a Humanitarian Assistance Operation (HAO) in the desert basin east of San Diego, Calif. The BLT, which comprises the MEU's Ground Combat Element, is reinforced with an artillery battery, amphibious assault vehicle platoon, combat engineer platoon, light armored reconnaissance company, M1A1 Main Battle Tank platoon and a reconnaissance platoon.
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (reinforced), commanded by LtCol. James K. La Vine, not only transported ground forces but also supplied close air fire support and aerial reconnaissance for nearly every mission. The MEU's Aviation Combat Element (ACE) is comprised of CH-53E Super Stallion, CH-46E Sea Knight, UH-1N Huey and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters and AV-8B Harrier attack aircraft. The ACE also has two KC-130 tanker transport aircraft, which were used to move MEU Marines, Sailors and role-playing "evacuees" over long distances. The ACE also includes air traffic control, air defense and aircraft maintenance personnel.
Supporting the 15th MEU (SOC) with everything it needs for battle, MEU Service Support Group 15, commanded by Lieutenant Col. Carl D. Matter, conducted a HAO in the mountains of Warner Springs, Calif., supported the NEO and provided a mass casualty medical team that responded to a simulated medical emergency. The MEU's Combat Service Support Element is responsible for providing medical and dental services, explosive ordnance disposal, vehicle maintenance, motor transportation, military police, water purification and distribution, fuel storage and distribution, surveying and engineering. The MSSG has the ability to fully support the MEU for more than two weeks in nearly any environment.
"[This] commitment to excellence represents the finest of our core values of honor, courage, and commitment to which we as an organization steadfastly hold," Waldhauser added. "I am confident that over the course of the next six months this MEU will be ready at a moment's notice to defend our nation's interests when called upon to do so."
Those interested in the 15th MEU (SOC) can visit http://www.usmc.mil/15meu.