ABOARD USS KEARSARGE (off the coast of North Carolina) -- The first snowstorm of the season couldn't stop the Marines and Sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU) from beginning their PHIBRON/MEU Integration Exercise (PMINT). They crossed Onslow beach and kicked off their shipboard familiarization and embark/debark skills training Dec. 6. Additionally, they looked to further enhance interaction with their Naval counterparts.PMINT is the first exercise in which 24th MEU personnel actually implement amphibious operations in their training execution. This is a critical part of predeployment because during the 24th MEU's deployment to the Mediterranean Sea, their involvement in exercises will require movement of personnel and equipment via the Navy's Landing Craft Air-Cushioned (LCAC) vehicles, via LCU, and by air from the ships' flight decks.According to Col. Richard P. Mills, 24th MEU Commanding Officer, the main focus of this exercise is to teach and practice the myriad of individual skills and unit procedures required for amphibious operations."Safety is paramount," said Mills. "Our intent here is to learn the basic techniques of operating from the sea and doing it safely."Marines from Battalion Landing Team 2/8, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 and MEU Service Support Group 24 have combined efforts with the Command Element personnel in successfully kicking off PMINT.Follow the 24th MEU predeployment on their website at www.usmc.mil/24meu.