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15 Feb 2001 | Sgt. Kevin Dolloson 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Now that Marines and Sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU) have completed their Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise (MEUEX), they can focus on the next and final evolution of training. This will include three exercises over a three-week period, culminating with Special Operations Capable Exercise (SOCEX) - the exercise that certifies them as the Sixth Fleet's "911 Force."Faced with several scenarios over the MEUEX nine-day training period, the MEU, along with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), tackled every one expediently and safely.Day in and day out, aboard every ship of the ARG, Marines and Sailors worked together to respond to a variety of missions. MEUEX covered a large portion of what the MEU, fully "SOC" qualified, would be called on to do once they deploy to the Mediterranean.Missions like a Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) were conducted, in which role players are evacuated from an area. A Mass Casualty (MASSCAS) drill was also conducted. Additionally, Marines and Sailors conducted training in airfield and port seizures, both of which can be conducted from the sea. The culmination of MEUEX was the Humanitarian Assistance (HA) mission. In a real-world situation, the MEU would actually visit a particular country and set up an HA site to support people displaced from their homes. According to Capt. Eric Penrod, MEU Service Support Group 24 Supply Officer and HA Officer in Charge, the MEU has the capability to provide food, water, shelter and medical attention for up to 300 displaced citizens for at least a week until official government relief agencies arrive on the scene."The MEU alone has the capability to help up to 300 people for about three to five days, but that can be extended with additional assistance from the ships," said Penrod.Under ideal conditions, MSSG 24 Marines and Sailors work together to construct an HA site within four hours. For MEUEX, their conditions were somewhat downgraded from ideal and they still managed to complete construction of the site in approximately three-and-a-half hours.Marines and Sailors were impressed with the outcome themselves."We did an outstanding job," said Hospitalman Jason Egan, of Villa Hills, Ky. and Hospitalman Third Class Michael Marmion, of Tewksbury, Mass. in unison. "Considering we were in the dark, we did a great job, and the Mass Casualty went well too.""It's amazing how Marines work a lot better together when we're challenged," said LCpl. Kristopher Pyle, a Harrison, Neb. native and MSSG 24 Motor Transportation Operator. "We team up and get things done a lot faster."According to LtCol. John P. Lopez, MSSG 24 Commanding Officer, there were a lot more components involved than just the Marines and Sailors of MSSG 24."Of course the ship played its part in getting us where we needed to be," said Lopez. "A big piece in this evolution was the integration of BLT 2/8's boat company with MSSG. We worked very well together."Lopez added that MEUEX has increased the confidence level of his Marines and Sailors."We were very successful," he said. "We broke the timeline in setting up camp, and having done it at night, we have a better confidence in HA."LCpl. Steve McDaniel, Combat Engineer, echoes the CO."It gives me more confidence in building and HA," said the Ravenna, Ohio native. "Building at night helps me understand what's going on because I pay more attention.""This was definitely a good test," said Sgt. Brian Nichols, Combat Engineer from Gobles, Mich. "Even though we had bad conditions instead of good, it all worked out for the better.""We were given a perfect opportunity to see what we could do under adverse conditions," added Capt. Penrod. "This evolution definitely took us to the next level - SOCEX."Additionally, Pyle values the knowledge and experience he is gaining from being with the MEU."A lot of good experience comes out of deploying with a MEU," said Pyle. "Because here we're actually preparing for something that might happen in a real-world scenario."In addition to a rigorous training schedule for MEUEX, members of the MEU and the Kearsarge crew hosted several media personnel who were interested in the integration of Marines and Sailors of a MEU and an ARG. Within 24 hours they witnessed a NEO, a MASSCAS drill, preparations for night raids and an airfield seizure, as well as spent the night aboard the Kearsarge.With MEUEX behind them, MEU personnel are setting their sites on SOCEX and becoming Landing Force Sixth Fleet 2-01.Follow the 24th MEU predeployment on their website at