MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Combat Service Support warfighters from the 1st Force Service Support Group recently showed what they were made of during a comprehensive evaluation designed to check the unit's readiness.
MEU Service Support Group 15 spent two weeks performing many different missions during their annual Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation, also known as a MCCRE. Throughout the evaluation, they demonstrated their ability to complete a wide-range of support tasks.
The purpose of the evaluations was to ensure MSSG-15 can successfully perform those tasks before attaching to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. MSSG-15 will join the 15th MEU where they will provide CSS for the next year or more.
Certain missions conducted were very common to wartime combat service support like purifying water, transporting personnel and cargo and providing medical support. An MSSG however, must be able to support certain special operations with little planning time.
Their Non-combatant Evacuation Operation for example, required a force of Marines and Sailors to search, screen, medically treat, and evacuate a group of American citizens and Third-Country Nationals from a hostile location. They did this with only their own Marines, Sailors and equipment.
More than 50 Marines and Sailors from the 1st Force Service Support Group and the Field Medical Service School acted as role players for the NEO force to process.
"It really went well," said Capt. Foster Ferguson, 27, NEO commander and native of Louisa, Ky. He was told by one of the evaluators that MSSG-15 was one of the most prepared units evaluated.
Ferguson said one of the biggest challenges of this exercise was having his Marines provide all the security for the NEO force. Normally, the MEU's Ground Combat Element would provide security for the MSSG.
Another critically evaluated mission during the MCCRE was the Humanitarian Operation, which tested their abilities to distribute rations and purify water in a war-torn nation. The MSSG did both of those tasks during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
All the missions were taken very seriously, according to Sgt. Wes Molaski, 22, an operations clerk from Sierra Vista, Ariz. "They were going at it with their head down and definitely not taking the evaluation lightly."
To prepare for this evaluation, MSSG-15 conducted a series of field exercises and refined their standard operating procedures, according to Capt. Joe Lopez, 30, Operations Officer from Jacksonville, N.C. MSSG-15 also did a number of rehearsals during their preparations.
Due to scheduling changes caused by real-world events, MSSG-15 moved their training from Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms to Camp Pendleton, Lopez said. This created a number of unique challenges that they handled with ease.
By completing their MCCRE aboard Camp Pendleton, MSSG-15 had to be creative and design their own training scenarios, which were similar to events occurring overseas. That allowed the Marines to put a "real spin" on the individual training, Lopez added.
Some of MSSG's Marines and Sailors remember the real thing very well after deploying to OIF and a few signed on for another deployment. Cpl. Richard Curtis, 24, a motor transport operator from Odessa, Texas, said he used many things he learned from the war during this evaluation. "We're always learning because there’s endless things you can do with Motor Transport," he said. He and his fellow operators have been using this evaluation and previous field exercises to refine their operating procedures, which helps them in the future.
Curtis’s fellow Marine and motor transport operator, Cpl. Luis Martinez-Bido of Passiac, N.J., said he used this evaluation to really integrate his combat skills with his motor transport skills like the positioning of weapons on vehicles, conducting convoy security halts, and night-vision driving.
The motor transport Marines weren't the only people getting back to the basics. Navy Lt. Christopher M. Hamlin, 30, a dental officer from Nashua, N.H., said his dental team has been able to test a new digital x-ray machine for their field dental procedures. "We try to make the training as realistic as possible to simulate real-world scenarios. This extensive training should enable us to deal with any unexpected surprises."
Most of the Marines and Sailors agreed that working in the field brings a host of new challenges and concerns. Petty Officer 3rd Class Qwatevyia M. Edwards, 23, a hospital corpsman from Chicago said. "This is realistic training for operating in hot environments where we may deal with heat casualties."
While the focus of the evaluation was on combat service support, security was certainly not overlooked. A platoon of Marines was tasked in both their regular jobs and to provide security for MSSG-15. Sgt. James A. Kennington, 23, from Texarkana, Texas, works as both a heavy equipment mechanic and Tactical Security Element Platoon Sergeant. "Our Marines have an important job aside from their regular military occupation. While training or deployed, we depend on our own Marines to provide perimeter security." Kennington is in charge of 26 other Marines in the security platoon and together they ensure the combat service support force stays safe while performing their mission.
MSSG-15 attaches to the 15th MEU in June and will deploy near the end of the year for a scheduled six-month deployment.