FORT A.P. HILL, Va. -- Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) Commander Capt. Sinclair Harris visited Fort A.P. Hill, Va., Jan. 13-14 to observe training exercises and better understand Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) operations on the ground.
Commodore Harris made the trip to the 76,000-acre military training installation to see the MEU in action, participate in unit-level training events and discuss ESG-MEU distributed operations.
“Watching the Marines train in wet and frigid temperatures drove home the fact that MEU training is as realistic as it gets,” said Harris. In harsh weather conditions, rugged terrain, and at all times of day and night, these warriors are sharpening their skills. The ones that are returning from Iraq are motivating the new. The facilities at Fort A.P. Hill are providing the Marines with the ability to work on many scenarios of ground warfare. It is no wonder they are the finest fighting force in the world, and I am completely committed to continuing training with our sailors and ships at sea. The ESG-MEU combination really is the most flexible and ready war-fighting team in the world.”
Master Sgt. Donald Funkhouser, the MEU Battalion Planning Team Operations Chief who recently participated in the ESG’s Group Sail I, said he was pleasantly surprised by the way sailors onboard the Iwo Jima already regard the Marines.
“Everyone onboard the ship has been very been friendly and attentive to our needs. They’ve welcomed us into what is essentially their home,” Funkhouser said.
Referring to Commodore Harris’ visit to A.P. Hill, the 23-year veteran said, “This is the first time I have ever seen a Navy Commodore come out and see how we train and what we do. I t makes me excited to be a part of IWO ESG - MEU 24.”
During Commodore Harris’ two days at A.P. Hill, he covered a large portion of the facility grounds, observed and participated in several live-fire operations, talked with troops, and saw command and control of ground operations firsthand. He listened as young Marines explained how they purify brackish water, watched as troops rapidly dismounted light armored vehicles to secure a perimeter in less than five minutes, and observed combat engineers as they trained assault troops in various tactics using C4I explosives. Commodore Harris even played an active role in the urban environment training, posing as an insurgent during a raid on a mock village.
The MEU commander, Col. Ron Johnson, was excited to have the Commodore come out and support the training exercises. After delivering a motivating pep talk to the troops and shunning the 20-degree weather, he imparted Harris’ message exactly when he said the upcoming deployment will not be one where the MEU is operating on its own. The Navy will be there working side by side, he said. “It’s one team, and it’s one fight.”