ABOARD USS KEARSARGE -- A loud boom, which vibrated the ground for a split second, followed by a cloud of smoke from an explosion more than a thousand meters away, was the climax of operations for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU) March 18 as it stormed through its Supporting Arms Capabilities Exercise (SACEX).
SACEX, an exercise that tests the combined armament capabilities of the MEU and the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), began as a planning process aboard the USS Kearsarge. Once again, the Rapid Response Planning Process was initiated and MEU and ARG personnel combined ideas and forces in order to come up with a plan that would accomplish the mission swiftly and safely.
After several rehearsals, the team was ready for the real thing. The mechanized platoon was launched from the USS Carter Hall to set up security for the assault element landing.
Once the assault element hit the beach, they immediately directed their movement to their objective - OP 2, aboard Camp Lejeune.
Once the Forward Command Post was set up, several 81mm Mortar teams from Battalion Landing Team 2/8, Weapons Company, fired, on command, on the objective.
Additionally, BLT 2/8's artillery unit - 2/10 Echo Battery, close air support from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 and Carrier Wings 1 and 8, and simulated Naval Surface Fire Support, further enhanced the scope of attack.
During the exercise, VADM Michael G. Mullen, 2nd Fleet Commander, flew in from the USS Mt. Whitney, the battlegroup flagship, to observe close air support, mortars and artillery units in action.
As quickly as the actions on the objective were implemented, the Marines and Sailors of the 24th MEU began and completed the backload to ARG shipping.
During the MEU's actions on the objective, their Naval counterparts maintained the safety of the waters surrounding each vessel. With Joint Task Force (JTFEX) operations continuing, the Kearsarge ARG is confronted with contingencies at sea, such as unidentified boats and swimmers approaching the ships' zone.
In addition to handling Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC) and helicopter operations aboard the ships, all the ARG personnel are practicing onboard safety precautions, such as fire drills, man-overboard drills and abandon ship drills.
Now that SACEX is complete for the MEU, and JTFEX continues for the ARG, the focus turns to the MEU's certification exercise, Special Operations Capable (SOCEX). Key personnel are already leaning into the planning process for that.
Follow the 24th MEU deployment on their website at http://www.usmc.mil/24meu.