USS ESSEX, At sea -- U.S. Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked aboard the Essex Amphibious Ready Group’s three ships for Amphibious Squadron/Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration training, or PMINT, off the coast of San Diego Feb. 23 - March 8.
PMINT gave PHIBRON 3 and the 15th MEU an opportunity to integrate at all levels and execute full-mission profiles while aboard the USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and USS Rushmore (LSD 47).
“The amphibious force brings a host of flexible, responsive options across the spectrum of military operations in support of our interagency or joint force commanders,” said Col. Vance L. Cryer, commanding officer of the 15th MEU.
The ARG/MEU training continues to push both the Navy and Marine Corps towards a state of readiness as they prepare for their deployment in the spring.
“We’ve been conducting amphibious assaults, reconnaissance and surveillance inserts, raids, and humanitarian assistance training,” said Sgt. Wayne Miller, a Marine air-ground task force planner with the 15th MEU’s command element.
Miller said PMINT was one of the first times the MEU and the PHIBRON went to sea to conduct training and work as a team. As their training continues before the deployment, the Navy and Marine Corps will work towards a common objective.
“Practically every brief that goes on, if [the MEU] or [the ARG] is hosting it, there are always representatives from each side,” Miller said. “I think that’s one of the purposes of PMINT: working with the Navy, learning each other and just building that basic relationship with them. When we get to more complex situations, we will know how each other work and know how to get each other to the goal.”
Working so close with the Navy gave the Marines and Sailors a chance to learn how each other operates and understand each other’s traditions to build the relationship between the services.
Lance Cpl. Blake Tickle, a ground support equipment mechanic with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th MEU, worked side-by-side with the Navy. Together, they ensured their equipment was maintained and safe. Since this was their first time working so closely together, they had to learn how to work and integrate with each other in order to get the best outcome.
“We pretty much do their same schedule; work when they work and on exactly what they work on,” Tickle said. “We’re learning a new way of doing things. The gear we have on land is completely different than the gear they use on ship. We’re learning how to work on the ship version of our land gear.”
Another purpose of PMINT focuses more on an operational standpoint with different types of missions and training happening off the boat itself and on nearby islands and beaches.
“The PHIBRON/MEU integration training period is the foundation on which the Essex ARG/MEU will build our operational capabilities by exercising the well decks and flight decks, rehearsing the operational skills and training required for amphibious missions. These skills are critical as we learn both Navy and Marine Corps planning and battle rhythm processes,” Cryer said. “This integration training allows the Commodore and I to posture the force and set the conditions for success for the upcoming deployment to U.S. Central Command.”
As different scenarios play out during the deployment, Marines must remain vigilant and ready at a moment’s notice to go from ship to shore.
“This training makes us focus on how to get the Marines from the boat to the shore,” Miller said. “That whole process, to get the Marines from A to B, requires a lot of planning, training and a lot of understanding of how both sides work.”
These pre-deployment at sea periods also help the Marines get familiar with living on a ship. For some Marines, this was the first time being on ship. These exercises let the Marines learn their way throughout the ship and get used to ship life before deploying.
“Ship life is a lot different than what I’m used to,” Tickle said. “There’re very confined spaces and we pretty much live where we work.”
The 15th MEU will have two more at-sea exercises like PMINT before they deploy this spring. During each exercise they will have a better understanding of what to expect and will be able to operate and integrate together more smoothly than the time before. Constantly improving and growing as a team will ensure that the MEU and ARG are prepared for whatever may come their way.