USS PELELIU --
Recovering a stolen German vessel from pirates off the coast of Yemen and providing disaster relief in Pakistan are just a few of the accomplishments the 15th MEU conducted on its previous deployment; successes that would not have been possible without the help of their Navy counterparts.
Marines and sailors with the 15th MEU and Amphibious Squadron 3 began PHIBRON-MEU Interoperability Training, their first at-sea period as a full Marine Air-Ground Task Force in preparation for WestPac 12-02, here, May 31.
“This exercise brings together the MEU and the PHIBRON for the first time during our pre-deployment training cycle in preparation of WestPac 12-02, with the focus on integrating the blue-green team through staff planning and amphibious landing exercises,” said Col. Scott D. Campbell, commanding officer, 15th MEU. “The importance [of this exercise] cannot be understated; as the nation’s forward deployed, flexible sea-based MAGTF, the MEU cannot accomplish its mission without an integrated, cohesive relationship with our Navy brethren.”
Before the training started, the 15th MEU’s embarkation specialists and landing support specialists with the Port Operations Group were tasked with loading the USS Peleliu and USS Rushmore with vehicles, equipment and cargo.
“The embarkation period is to efficiently and rapidly load the ships,” said 2nd Lt. Louis C. Lukondi, officer-in-charge, Port Operations Group, and the executive officer of the Transportation Support Detachment with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th MEU. “My Marines ensure everything is loaded according to plan and that we are adhering to the Navy’s regulations,” added the 23-year-old native of New York.
Lukondi’s Marines are charged with staging all the vehicles and gear, and they are the experts when it comes to loading equipment onto the ships. The unit’s embarkation specialists create load plans to ensure the gear comes off in the right order when it is debarked.
“The POG’s Marines also ensure the gear is loaded in sticks established by the MEU’s embarkation specialists,” said Sgt. Andy Alonso, non-commissioned officer-in-charge, POG, and a landing support specialist with the Transportation Support Detachment, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “From there, the heavy equipment operators move the gear to its planned destination,” added the 25-year-old native of Queens, N.Y.
The unit’s training continues to increase in difficulty and complexity as the deployment approaches.
“We have completed MAGTF exercises on land, now we are practicing on the ships,” said Capt. Samuel L. Ksiazkiewicz, embarkation officer, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, 15th MEU, and the team embarkation officer for the USS Peleliu. “This adds one more level of complexity when we are dealing with the ships,” added the 28-year-old native of Jackson, Mich.
Once the gear was staged and cleared to enter the ships, the POG Marines loaded the cargo. The Marines drove the tactical vehicles to Naval Amphibious Base Coronado to load them onto landing craft utilities where they initiate the sterngate marriage.
“The LCU marries to the sterngate of the ship to load the vehicles,” said Capt. Peter D. Nelson, embarkation officer, Command Element, 15th MEU. “The final phase of embarkation involves the accountability of all personnel onto the ships,” added the 35-year-old native of Livingston, Tenn.
This will be many of the 15th MEU personnel’s first time on ship, which is one of the many reasons for PMINT. Additionally, the exercise capitalizes on different capabilities of the blue-green team to include: visit, board, search and seizure missions, amphibious raids, non-combatant evacuation operations, mass casualty, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, and forward arming and refueling points.
The 15th MEU is currently preparing for its deployment scheduled for this fall.