MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Every day around the globe Marines are partnering with our nation’s allies, fighting terrorism and assisting thousands affected by natural disasters. And when they aren’t doing these things, they are preparing to do them. This constant state of readiness is what separates the Marine Corps as a service.
Immediately upon returning from its Western Pacific 12-2 deployment, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit began preparing for its next mission.
This includes working with the 11th MEU, 13th MEU and I MEF to pass on lessons from the deployment and helping them prepare for theirs.
“We send individuals with resident knowledge to teach periods of instruction where we share our experiences with other organizations,” said Australian Army Maj. Ben Watson, operations officer, 15th MEU. “Because we have the most recent experience of what’s out there, these lessons are invaluable to the next unit’s deployment.”
The 15th MEU also plans and participates in training exercises with partner nations and other U.S. services. These exercises support U.S. security by strengthening international bonds and serving as the framework for future joint operations.
“In the period between major at sea deployments, the 15th MEU remains busy supporting exercises with the militaries of our regional partners,” said Lt. Col. John R. O’Neal, commanding officer, 15th MEU. “Our efforts support strategic alliances by fostering professional military-to-military relationships and improving the interoperability of Marine Corps forces with various foreign military forces.”
Recently, the MEU took part in PANAMAX 13, a training exercise in which American forces collaborated with 19 partner nations to protect traffic through the Panama Canal. 15th MEU officers played a crucial role as subject matter experts on MEU capabilities.
“In this example, if a crisis does occur in Panama and if the U.S. is asked to respond, we will certainly be working jointly with the Panamanian Forces,” said Lt. Col. Bill Wischmeyer, executive officer, 15th MEU. “That is something that we always want to rehearse so we understand their capabilities and they understand ours.”
The MEU has several training exercises planned for the future, beginning with exercise Iron Fist early next year. The bilateral exercise is designed to improve interoperability with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force as the two countries continue to develop effective responses to a diverse and changing operational environment.
“This exercise is important because it’s the first time we’ll be setting up the [command operation center] as a new MEU,” Watson said. “Even though we’re facilitating the Japanese training, we get to plan mission essential tasks, keeping everyone in the MEU current.”
In addition to training with Japan, the MEU will also be working with Australian, Filipino and Indian forces in a variety of upcoming exercises.
“These exercises give the staff an opportunity to work together,” said Maj. Patrick Byrne, assistant operations officer, 15th MEU. “For example, operations and logistics staffs learn how each other’s section operates. This helps them get in sync and become more efficient.”
Since the 15th MEU often operates in or around many of these countries while deployed, it is important to develop relationships now.
“These exercises provide the MEU a great opportunity to not only build friendships but share tactics, techniques and procedures with similar forces while allowing us realistic training scenarios to hone our amphibious warfighting skills,” O’Neal said.
In addition to strengthening foreign relationships, the 15th MEU also partners in the development of the “MEU Smart Book,” a doctrinal reference guide designed for MEU and amphibious squadron leadership aimed a codifying plans and processes to more efficiently complete pre-deployment training and operational missions.
The Smart Book is primarily based on the 15th MEU staff’s standard operating procedures, but it also includes inputs from other MEUs in I MEF. It allows leadership to set the tempo and sync all staff during time-compressed planning situations such as contingency operations, embassy reinforcements, and humanitarian assistance disaster relief operations.
Besides preparing for future deployments through major training exercises, the MEU’s Marines are also staying current in all annual training; including marksmanship, physical and combat fitness and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense training.
“Part of being mission ready is staying up on the basic annual training,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Adrian Virges, operations chief, 15th MEU. “A lot of this training serves as an opportunity to sharpen our leadership skills as well. Making sure those [noncommissioned officers] get the opportunity to lead their young Marines through this training.”
This collective training ensures that as long as there is a need, the MEU will continue to be America’s primary crisis response force.
“At any moment the balloon can go up and the MEU can be called up as a special purpose [Marine Air-Ground Task Force] and be put in a situation where we don’t have time to do any training,” Watson said. “We need to be prepared if that happens. Success doesn’t just happen, you need to set the conditions for success and that’s what we’re doing right now.”