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What is a MEU?

Marine Air Ground Task Force  
Since World War II, in nearly every crisis, the United States Marine Corps has deployed projection forces, with the ability to move ashore with sufficient sustainability for prolonged operations. These forces have been organized into Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTF) a combination of air, ground, and support assets. MAGTFs are established for specific missions, or in anticipation of a wide range of possible missions. Combining air, ground, and logistic assets maximizes the combat power of each of the war fighting elements. MAGTFs have long provided the United States with a broad spectrum of response options when U.S. and allied interests have been threatened and in non-combat situations which require instant response to crisis. Selective, timely and credible commitment of air-ground units have, on many occasions, helped bring stability to a region and sent signals worldwide to aggressors that the United States is willing to defend its interests, and is able to do so with a significantly powerful force on extremely short notice.

Marine Expeditionary Unit
The MEU is the smallest of the MAGTFs and is comprised of about 2,500 Marines and Sailors. The MEU's major elements are the Command Element (CE), the Ground Combat Element (GCE), the Aviation Combat Element (ACE), and the Logistics Combat Element (LCE).

The Command Element (CE)
The CE is comprised of the commanding officer and supporting staff -- about 200 Marines and Sailors. It provides the command and coordination essential for effective planning and execution of operations and synchronizes the actions of each element within the MEU.

Ground Combat Element (GCE)
The GCE, about 1,200 strong, is built around an infantry battalion and provides the over-land combat power for the MEU. Assets inherent within the standard infantry battalion include medium and heavy machine guns, mortars, combined anti-armor teams (CAAT) and scout snipers. While assigned to the MEU, the unit, designated "Battalion Landing Team," is reinforced with light armored reconnaissance vehicles (LAV), artillery, combat engineers and assault amphibian vehicles (AAV).

Aviation Combat Element (ACE)
The ACE is a composite squadron that provides the MEU medium to heavy lift capability, assault support and close air support (CAS). Although the aviation element carries the name of the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron assigned to the MEU, its assets include MV-22B Ospreys, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopters, AH-1Z Super Cobra helicopter gunships, UH-1Y Huey utility helicopters and AV-8B Harrier jump jets. With a force strength of approximately 500, the ACE includes air traffic control, aircraft maintenance/support and aviation logistics/supply capabilities.

Logistics Combat Element (LCE)
About 300 Marines and Sailors of the LCE provide combat support such as supply; maintenance; transportation; explosive ordnance disposal; military police; water production and distribution; engineering; medical and dental services; fuel storage and distribution; and other services to the deployed MEU. The LCE gives the MEU the ability to support itself for 15 days in austere expeditionary environments.




The MEU Cycle
There are seven MEU's in the Marine Corps, three on each coast of the United States and one in Okinawa, Japan. The East Coast MEUs maintain a near-constant presence in the Mediterranean region. Each MEU follows a similar work-up/deployment cycle.

Phase 1:
Interim / Build-Up Period:
Upon completion of a deployment, the Marine Expeditionary Unit remains in a stand-by status for approximately one month, prepared to respond to events around the world. Following this period, the MEU "stands down," releasing its MSEs and retaining only its Command Element. The stand-down period provides the Command Element a chance to rotate select personnel and begin planning for the addition of newly assigned MSEs and the next round of work-up training. When the MSEs are received, the stand-down ends and the six-months of intense pre-deployment training begins.

Phase 2:
Work-Up Period:
Training during the six-month work-up period is often referred to as "crawl, walk, run." The Marines and Sailors progress through curriculum and exercises that teach individual, small unit, and unit tactics while integrating the separate MEU elements into a cohesive, flexible and powerful force. The work-up period includes training in the following areas: Amphibious Operations, Mechanized and Helicopter-borne Raids, Noncombatant Evacuation Operations, Humanitarian Assistance, and Urban Operations. Exercises conducted during the work-up period include: PMINT - Phibron-MEU Integration Training.  RUT -  Realistic Urban Training, COMPTUEX - Composite Training Unit Exercise and ARGMEUEX, the ARG/MEU Exercise.

Phase 3:
Deployment: Following the work-up, the MEU deploys for six months to U.S. European deployed, self-sustaining force that the combatant commanders can direct to accomplish a variety of special operations and conventional missions their areas of responsibility. The missions may include: * Conventional Operations (Amphibious Assaults and Raids) * Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) * Humanitarian Assistance /Disaster Relief (HA/DR) * Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) * Security Operations * Peace Enforcement * Reconnaissance and Surveillance * Airfield/Port Seizure.