MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
The Marine Corps is largely known for its prowess in combat, protecting the United States and its interests from foreign threats. However, sometimes it is called upon to assist U.S. citizens.
To prepare for that call, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit rehearsed a non-combatant evacuation operation, in which units from the MEU’s Battalion Landing Team and Logistics Combat Battalion evacuated role-players acting as American citizens from a predesignated location, here, July 24.
The training event was part of Composite Training Unit Exercise, a pre-deployment event that evaluates the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group’s ability to conduct integrated military operations at sea and ashore in a realistic training environment.
Non-combatant evacuation operations are conducted whenever the safety and security of U.S. citizens in foreign countries can no longer be ensured. The Department of State calls on available resources to come to the aid in the evacuation of these citizens. Serving as the U.S. expeditionary force in readiness, the MEU is the best suited unit for the successful accomplishment of such missions. To accomplish this, the Forward Command Element for the MEU, is sent to the nation to work hand-in-hand with the ambassador of the country.
The detachment, of about 20 Marines, acts as liasion between the MEU and the Embassy staff to ensure both the MEU commander and ambassador have the most up-to-date information. The FCE is the lifeline between boots on the ground and ships at-sea.
“The FCE answers to the ambassador who works hand-in-hand with them to discuss procedures and ensure the safety of American citizens,” said Tonia Weik, public diplomacy officer, Department of State. “Apart from evacuating U.S. citizens, we will do as much as possible to help the people of the host nation.”
Although the FCE was in place at the simulated Embassy, CLB 15, established a hasty evacuation control center at the evaucation location several miles away. At the ECC, the Americans were searched, screened and manifested for embarkation aboard military aircraft to the deliberate evacuation control center where they were transferred to civilian aircraft to their reach their final destination.
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 (Rein.), the MEU’s aviation combat element, flew a CH-46E and a CH-53E to evacuate 25 role players during the simulation.
Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3/5, the ground combat element, provided security throughout the duration of the operation.
“This is a mission that requires every element of the Marine Air Ground Task Force,” said 1st Lt. Jeffrey Pioszak, officer-in-charge, Transport Support Detachment, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “It is a huge staff planning effort between the elements.”
This is the third repetition of a NEO the 15th MEU has conducted in preparation for their upcoming deployment, scheduled this fall.
“This is probably the most likely mission the MEU will be sent on when it deploys,” said Pioszak. “This is our third time conducting a NEO. My Marines have become comfortable with the operation.”