CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- As the last of the tents came down and the last of the gear was packed up, Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) made their way back to Camp Lejeune, N.C. wrapping up their Training in an Urban Environment Exercise (TRUEX) in Macon, Ga. May 22.
The exercise, which lasted for two weeks, provided the Marines the opportunity to conduct missions in an urban setting and better prepared them to face situations like this on their upcoming six-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea.
One highlight of the training was the unfamiliarity offered by Macon. "Here you find high antennas, congested roads and buildings packed close together," said Col. Richard P. Mills, commanding officer, 24th MEU. "You can't reproduce that at Camp Lejeune. The Marines get comfortable operating there because it's home. They know it. Here everything is new and it offers an extra layer of difficulty."
The Marines of the Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF) conducted three raids on buildings in downtown Macon and the surrounding area.
The first was conducted on a building located at Tift College in Forsyth, Ga. There, the MSPF conducted a night raid in which they "destroyed" a simulated weapons cache.
The second raid, again conducted at night, but this time in downtown Macon, saw the Marines inserted by an "18-wheeler" truck. Once inserted the Marines took out simulated enemy personnel and destroyed more weapons.
The final raid, also conducted in downtown Macon was viewed by hundreds of local citizens and military personnel. During this raid, the MSPF Marines inserted by fast roping from CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters. After the insert on the roof of the building, the Marines eliminated simulated enemy personnel and more enemy weapons.
"Our job is to be ready to respond to crises whenever they arise. It's important to practice our skills in urban settings where (landing zones) are hard to find and large buildings present tactical challenges," said Mills
While the main focuses of the exercise were the MSPF, and HMM-263, the MEU's Aviation Combat Element, other events were happening throughout the base camp and in the local community.
Two milestones were met within the confines of the base camp on Robins Air Force Base. The Marines of MEU Service Support Group 24 were assigned the mission of building a base camp for 600 Marines in a period of 10 days.
Along with the help of Seabees from the 74th Naval Mobile Construction Battalion, Gulfport, Miss., they finished it in five.
"What these Marines and Seabees did to facilitate an operation like TRUEX allowed the rest of the Marines and sailors to drop their bags, get situated, and focus on the operation without worrying about swinging a hammer or putting tents together," said Capt. Jose L. Mercado Jr., camp commandant, Base Camp Warrior.
The other feat came from the Marines of the Joint Force Enabler, who obtained their Special Operations Capable qualification prior to kicking off the exercise.
"We were able to set up and get our services running in about three and half hours," said 1st Lt. Griff Marshall, Joint Task Force Enabler officer-in-charge. "That is much quicker than the 12 hours required."
Along with the accomplishments around the base camp, 24th MEU Marines and Sailors did their part to help out in the local community by visiting two local high schools and volunteering their time helping out two local Boys and Girls Clubs.
At the Boys the Girls Clubs, the Marines did a variety of tasks including moving furniture, installing light fixtures, helping out with physical education and just spending time with some of the students at the clubs.
"After this exercise we are more prepared to go forward," said Mills. "The things we learned here will ultimately save lives."
The Macon community expressed its support for the 24th MEU in a variety of ways. The local newspaper, the Macon Telegraph, hosted 300 Marines at a Macon Braves baseball game. Also the mayor of Macon, the Hon. C. Jack Ellis, proclaimed May 20 as "24th MEU Day."