ABOARD USS PELELIU -- From over the horizon to the shores of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marines and Sailors of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted full-scale amphibious and maritime training exercises during Composite Training Underway Exercise (COMPTUEX), May 1-10.
The 15th MEU planned and executed exercises practicing complex amphibious raids, a Humanitarian Assistance Operation (HAO), and a Noncombatant Evacuations Operation (NEO) from the three ships of the Navy's Amphibious Squadron 1, the USS Peleliu (LHA-5), USS Comstock (LSD-45) and USS Dubuque (LPD-8).
This marked the first time the MEU's major subordinate elements; Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-163 (Reinforced); and MEU Service Support Group 15; came together to operate from sea. The exercise was preparation for an upcoming deployment to the Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean later this summer.
"COMPTUEX was a great opportunity to combine the Ground Combat Element, Aviation Combat Element and MEU Service Support Element of the 15th MEU," said LtCol. Christopher M. Bourne, the commanding officer of BLT 1/1. "Teamwork between the elements of the MAGTAF (Marine Air Ground Task Force) was outstanding. It really helps build a strong state of trust between each element."
MSSG-15 conducted a Humanitarian Assistance Operation and a Noncombatant Evacuation Operation during the exercise. They processed people acting as third-world nationals in need of help during the HAO, and others acting as American citizens at the NEO. MSSG provided medical care and food to Marines acting as citizens in need during the HAO.
Elements of the BLT guarded the areas the training took place, and HMM-163 (rein) provided transportation from the ship to shore for the MSSG and security from above.
During the final few days of the exercise, the MEU also conducted a live-fire and maneuver exercise aboard Camp Pendleton that incorporated nearly every element of the MEU's capabilities from the individual infantry Marine to heavily-armed AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters.
Each company of BLT 1/1 filled a critical role in the exercise. Alpha Company went ashore and conducted a live-fire raid in Amphibious Assault Vehicles. Bravo Co. hit the beach to conduct a boat raid. Charlie Co. executed a helicopter-borne raid. Elements of Weapons Co., the MEU's artillery battery and attack helicopters provided fire support.
Each command's battle planning staff also embarked aboard the ships. Working together, they coordinated between each element during every phase of mission planning. This was the first opportunity for the staffs to plan missions together aboard ship and with their Navy counterparts.
The value of the exercise went deeper than field training and battle staff planning. For many 15th MEU Marines, COMPTUEX was the first opportunity to experience life aboard a naval vessel.
"This (exercise) gave Marines who haven't been at sea before a chance to get a little taste of ship life," said Cpl. C. J. Estrada, 20, a Rohnert Park native and squad leader with 81mm Mortar Plt., Weapons Co., BLT1/1. "They were climbing the ladder wells, going through the narrow passageways and seeing how tight space is on ship."
The Marines will get plenty more time to acclimate to ship life with two, two-week exercises, Fleet Exercise and the Special Operations Capable Exercise throughout the next two months before the Western Pacific deployment begins.
For more information, news articles and photos on the 15th MEU visit http://www.usmc.mil/15meu