SAVANNAH, Ga. -- A loud thump from rotors of a CH-46 helicopter cutting through the cold air, combined with the first daytime snowfall in ten years to hit the city of Savannah caught the attention of many local residents Jan. 9, as the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU) kicked off its next phase of predeployment training - Training in an Urban Environment Exercise, or TRUEX.
TRUEX XXXIX began for the Marines and Sailors of the MEU at an all-hands brief held in a hangar bay aboard Savannah's Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center, where MEU Marines are living for the next two weeks. The brief was held so local officials could formally welcome the MEU. Additionally, members of the MEU learned the details concerning TRUEX, which are vital to successfully completing the exercise.
Following the brief, several personnel from local and national news media were afforded the opportunity to interview Col. Richard P. Mills, 24th MEU Commanding Officer and other key personnel involved in the overall operations of TRUEX.
Once interviews were complete, it was time to see some of what TRUEX is all about.
CH-46 helicopters from HMM-266 participated in training at Forsyth Park - in the heart of downtown Savannah - which entailed Marines from the MEU's Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF) fast roping from the helicopters onto the roof of a nearby building.
Several passersby stopped to witness the spectacle of helicopters and Marines engaged in rope suspension training.
According to local newspapers, Savannah residents were impressed with the urban training.
"Civilians never get to see what they do for real," said Misty Kendall, a Savannah resident, as reported in the Savannah Morning News. "It's educational."
Kendall further explained that she enjoyed watching the exercise because she never got to see what her husband did when he was in the Army.
The Marines and Sailors participating in TRUEX enjoyed the training in Forsyth Park as well.
"Being a part of MSPF is nothing like a typical battalion field operation," said Cpl. Kevin Berry, Security Element, from Diamond Springs, Calif. "Here we're more challenged, training is faster paced and we get to work with Force Recon."
"All Marine Corps training is good, but the type of training we're doing here gives you more of a rush," added Berry. "Also the public gets to see what we do so they have a better understanding of the capabilities of the Marine Corps."
"This is high-speed training that's very intense," said Hospitalman Apprentice Filipe Fortes, from Mendham, N.J., MSPF Corpsman. "But it's good familiarization for us before we get to the [Mediterranean Sea]."
The commanding officer of HMM-266, LtCol. Edward Walsh, took to the air for the training alongside his Marines.
"This is a great kickoff to a unique training opportunity," said Walsh. "It also provides our pilots the insight they need to perform urban operations."
"It was good to be able to fly in a city environment," said Capt. John Lindsey, CH-46 pilot, HMM-266, from Orlando, Fla. "It was a challenging and rewarding experience and it gave us good familiarization with urban terrain for when we deploy to the Mediterranean Sea."
In addition to training in downtown Savannah, Marines of HMM-266 flew several local, city and state officials on VIP flights throughout Savannah and Ridgeland, S.C.
Follow 24th MEU predeployment on their website at www.usmc.mil/24meu.