USS ESSEX, At sea --
U.S. Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed Certification Exercise, or CERTEX, while aboard the Essex Amphibious Ready Group’s three ships off the coast of San Diego April 21, 2015.
CERTEX was the final exercise for the ARG and the MEU before their deployment. This exercise was the MEU’s chance to complete all of their required certifications and demonstrate their readiness and proficiency at executing all of their mission essential tasks.
Throughout the exercise, the evaluators from I Marine Expeditionary Force looked at how the MEU handles everything from the time a warning order was dropped until execution. The MEU tackled different types of operations ranging from vertical and long-range raids to foreign humanitarian assistance operations.
“The 15th MEU has been through an extensive work-up cycle culminating with an intense final certification exercise covering much of the southwestern U.S.,” said Col. Vance Cryer, commanding officer of the 15th MEU. “The Marines and Sailors of the ESX ARG / 15th MEU team have demonstrated that they are capable of projecting a full range of missions from humanitarian assistance to full spectrum combat operations with skill and professionalism. The 15th MEU is ready to provide flexible, responsive options to our Nation’s leadership wherever a crisis or contingency arises in the littorals.”
The blue, Navy, and green, Marine Corps, sides have been working hard since their first at-sea periods, sustainment training and Amphibious Squadron/Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration training, or PMINT, to smooth out the rapid response planning process and build a relationship between services.
“Day one, we made a point to come together as a blue-green team,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Torain Kelly. “I think it’s what’s going to make us better. The biggest difference between the workups would be the process is a lot smoother.”
The MEU and the ARG started refining their processes during PMINT and applied what they learned during their next at-sea period, Composite Training Unit Exercise, or COMPTUEX, where they kept improving, making each process quicker.
“What we do for CERTEX is takes that same momentum we had from COMPTUEX and everything should be good,” said Kelly, the operations chief with the 15th MEU’s command element. “Now it’s just another drill. Everything is muscle memory once that warning order comes down.”
CERTEX was the most difficult, realistic exercise the MEU has done to this point.
“COMPTUEX and PMINT we had a good idea on what to expect,” said Cpl. Matthew Wille, a Marine air-ground task force planner with the 15th MEU’s command element. “We could kind of foresee the next few days and game the game a little. With CERTEX we couldn’t expect what’s coming and that’s when the [rapid response planning process] comes in. You have a certain amount of time to come up with a plan, develop your courses of actions and ultimately get the forces that need to be inserted, [on the ground].”
This exercise proved the MEU and the ARG are prepared to take on anything they may encounter during their deployment.
“We’ve been training for the MEU since September,” said Lance Cpl. Alexander Mangan, a fire direction control man with India Battery, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th MEU. “I feel very prepared, we train for every worst-case scenario so whatever happens during the MEU, we’re ready for it.”
The Marines were evaluated on everything that they worked on since the MEU composited. After the months of training, they have shown they are capable of a wide range of operations.