LEJEUNE, N.C. (12/20/2011) — Pick up any random military
correspondence, publication, or journal entry and it's sure to
resemble an alphabet soup of acronyms and tongue-twisters
undecipherable to all but a select few civilians. Indeed, even some
of the most hard-charging Marines would be hard-pressed to decode
the acronyms they themselves use every day.
mind-bending acronyms are currently being put to use by Marines and
sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Composite Training
Unit Exercise. COMPTUEX took place Nov. 28 to Dec. 20, to test the
24th MEU and Amphibious Squadron 8's (PHIBRON 8) ability to conduct
various missions they could face while deployed - NEO, HA/DR,
MEDCAP, RRMT, EVBSS, TRAP and DAFT to name a few. All these acronyms
mean something to the Marines.
Although NEO may immediately
conjure up the image of a heroic protagonist in the latest action
packed science fiction movie, the Marine Corps uses it to describe
non-combatant evacuation operations. A Marine Corps NEO is an
important mission of the 24th MEU and contains much of the same
action packed experiences of a major motion picture. When a country
is thrown into turmoil due to instability or civil unrest, the
ability to swoop in and provide an escape for U.S. citizens and
others authorized for evacuation is an job that a MEU is perfectly
The flexibility of using aircraft and surface
craft from amphibious shipping gives the embassy a lot of options
when considering an evacuation.
“It's a mission we would
execute in the event the security situation in a country has
deteriorated to the point that the host nation cannot provide
security for U.S. citizens... or third country nationals,” said Capt.
Bill Horton, the operations officer with Combat Logistics Battalion
24, 24th MEU.
The 24th MEU conducted a simulated NEO off the
shores of Camp Lejeune, N.C., last week. An initial liaison team was
flown nearly 400 miles from the USS Iwo Jima while off the coast of
Florida all the way to the notional embassy at Camp Lejeune using
MV-22 Ospreys to begin coordination with the ambassador and their
The scenario lead the Marines to eventually inserting
security forces and processing role players who needed to be
After a devastating earthquake or crushing wave
turns life upside down, the most important four letter word may not
be what you think. HA/DR is short for humanitarian assistance and
disaster relief, an invaluable tool a MEU can wield to bring
immediate temporary relief to some of the most remote locations on
HA/DR missions are special because Marines and
sailors, acting as first responders, fill a gap until more permanent
aid-oriented organizations can step in and take reins of the
situation. Furthermore, a MEU has the unique ability to provide
security and protection against malicious forces that may see an
opportunity to exploit victims.
“If a typhoon or a tsunami
hits someplace, we start providing food, water, some medical
services, and possibly transportation to get isolated people to a
safer place – this is the focus of disaster relief,” Horton said.
“If its humanitarian assistance, it's going to focus more on going
into a conflict region and providing security and temporary shelter
until the situation calms down. It all depends on the specific
actions of what's required in the environment.”
The 24th MEU
conducted a simulated humanitarian assistance operation while
training off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla., from Dec. 8-10,
delivering Meals Ready to Eat, water, and medicines to a fictitious
country reeling from the effects of a notional hurricane.
This time, CLB 24 (Combat Logistics Battalion 24) was the main
effort, aided by a HAST (Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team), an
initial liaison element that developed necessary courses of action
for follow on forces. In recent years, MEUs have conducted HA/DR
missions in Pakistan, Haiti, Thailand, Bangladesh and even here
stateside after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
same day visit to the doctor and dentist doesn't sound like an event
worth looking forward to, but for some, malaria pills and tooth
extraction are a necessary and welcome addition to quality of life.
The Medical Civic Action Program and Dental Civic Action Program are
hallmark MEU operations and an effective way to develop relations
with countries needing simple medical and dental needs.
provide care to populations that don't have access to it,” said Navy
LT. Christopher Ketchie, a medical planner with the Command Element,
An RRMT, on the other hand, is a different type of
medical mission. Essentially, a rapid response medical team is
exactly what it sounds like—roughly a dozen or so medical providers
including a Navy doctor, numerous hospital corpsmen, communication
Marines, and a security element. Its purpose is to deploy from ship
and handle casualties on all scales without the aid of typical mass
“It's a light, small footprint medical team
that can react to mass casualties,” said Ketchie. “The team is used
in various situations where we can't provide large amounts of gear,
corpsmen and medical providers.”
Pirates and weapons
smugglers alike should surrender, rather than face the wrath of a
visit, board, search, and seizure mission.
are designed to board and search suspicious vessels at sea for
weapons smuggling or other criminal activity and are distinctive in
that both the Marine Corps and Navy can have tactical control. The
Navy contains the task organization to board a compliant vessel
while Marines specialize in non-compliant boarding. However, Marines
and sailors often join forces and conduct VBSS missions together.
The 24th MEU and PHIBRON 8 recently excelled during a simulated
Expanded VBSS mission on Dec. 7 off the coast of Florida during
COMPTUEX. It was upgraded to an expanded mission (EVBSS) because the
target vessel was simultaneously boarded from above by fast roping
Marines out of helicopters and from below using rigid-hulled
inflatable boats—a typical VBSS mission encompasses water transit
only. Marines stalked room to room, meticulously clearing each part
of the ship until safely handing it over to their Navy counterparts.
Even if Owen Wilson is not the downed pilot needing a quick
and rapid rescue, a MEU's Marines and Sailors will surely step up to
the plate and provide a reaction force for a TRAP mission.
Tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel missions are a means to
recover downed pilots or sensitive aircraft from the clutches of
potential enemies. These missions are typically performed by a small
team of force reconnaissance Marines and can occur in as little as
two hours after a crash.
“Usually it's behind enemy lines so
we don't want to create a large signature,” said Staff Sgt. Jaime
Orozco, a reconnaissance Marine with the 24th MEU's force
reconnaissance platoon. “We want to just go in there quick and get
The 26th MEU actually conducted a TRAP mission earlier
this year in Libya, rescuing a downed Air Force pilot after his F-15
crashed. Marines launched from amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge
and rescued the pilot before anyone else could get to him. Despite
the steel massiveness and awesome firepower of modern naval ships,
they are still vulnerable when in proximity to land where a
diminutive enemy can exploit an opportunity to get close.
defend against would-be attackers, the Navy conducts DATF, or
Defense of Amphibious Task Force operations. Marines participate by
providing air assets and a show of force on the ship's flight deck,
armed with an assortment of weapons ranging from rifles and machine
guns to surface-to-air missile systems.
“Its protection for
the ship,” said Master Sgt. Chris Brueggeman, the operations chief
for Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd
Marine Regiment, 24th MEU. “So an unidentified vessel doesn't commit
a terrorist attack against it.”
The 24th MEU rehearsed DATF
tactics during COMPTUEX integrating into the Navy's defensive
posture with heavy and medium machine guns, snipers and Stinger
missiles. A MEU is capable of conducting such a variety of missions
because it combines the full capability of a Marine Air Ground Task
Force. For each mission mentioned, all members of the team are
involved from each of the elements of the MEU – the command element,
aviation combat element, ground combat element, and logistics combat
Even though the MEU's everyday language is a
puzzling mess of consonants and vowels, the results are quite clear.
To its friends, MEU means a helping hand to assist in a variety of
ways - helping to make a bad situation into a better one. To its
enemies, it translates into difficulty, frustration, spoiled efforts
By USMC Sgt. Richard Blumenstein
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