PRIZREN, Kosovo -- As the USS Nassau Amphibious Ready Group set sail with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) aboard, it marked the first time this MEU brought along a Personnel Administration Center (MEU PAC) with it on deployment.
"The MEU PAC was set up to provide a more effective and accurate way to report all personnel matters for more than 2,200 Marines and Sailors from the day the MEU deploys until the day it returns," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Adam Y. Lewis, officer-in-charge, 24th MEU PAC. "The MEU is achieving this by enabling the commander and other leaders to interact at the point of reporting vice relying on each separate Major Subordinate Element (MSE) to reach back to different Personnel Centers in the rear."
"Years ago this was nothing new. Every element of the MEU deployed with a personnel officer and a detachment of Marines to provide similar support. Where three Personnel Officers used to go out, however, now only one goes out."
The number of enlisted administrators sent out has also been reduced. In cutting back from each MSE having its own Personnel Center to having one for all, reporting administrative issues for the MEU is standardized. "This is a better way of supporting the unit commander and the Marines," said Lewis. "There is currently no better concept to ensure Marines in a MEU are being paid correctly and in a timely manner"
The clerks also think the idea is great. "Being with the MEU PAC allows us to get experience doing everything," said Cpl. Anthony L. Apongan, MEU PAC noncommissioned-officer-in-charge. "If we were back at a normal personnel center we would only be working in one area. Here, we have to be able to do all the jobs and it makes you more proficient."
Along with the becoming proficient in their jobs, the clerks all agreed the best part of being the MEU PAC was the opportunity to deploy with a MEU.
"It's great to get to deploy," said Cpl. Elwin T. Zubiri, Service Record Book chief. "We are out here supporting almost 2,300 Marines and doing things that would never get done if the PAC was back in the rear."
The MEU PAC has received good reviews from the MEU's senior enlisted Marines. "It's a tremendous advantage having our administrators with us, versus relying on someone in the rear to take care of whatever our needs may be," said Sgt. Maj. Donnie R. Barrett, Sergeant Major of the 24th MEU. "The fact that you have your duty experts with you is a big bonus when you need answers right away."
"I think the Marines, knowing that their pay and other administrative matters are taken care of, have a tremendous load taken off their minds. This system allows them to concentrate and excel in their own areas of expertise," added Barrett. "At first I wasn't a big fan of the MEU PAC but after having observed what they bring to the table, I'm convinced that this is the way to go."
The junior Marines in the MEU also agree. "I think the MEU PAC is a good idea," said Cpl. Nathan Crowley, Command Element armorer. "Those guys work hard to make sure everything is straight and everyone's pay and leave are good."
An interesting point about the 24th MEU PAC is that Lewis is also one of the founders of the MEU PAC idea.
"It wasn't just me that created the MEU PAC concept," said Lewis. "It was also the senior administrator of the II Marine Expeditionary Force administration section, Lt. Col. Claude Davis, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jim Miller, who was the Officer in Charge of the II Marine Expeditionary Force Marine Headquarters Group Personnel Administration Center."
"The three of us got together mainly as a result of an attempt to improve the efficiency in which the Personnel Administration Centers could support the forward deployed units," added Lewis. "We needed to do this with Operational Security (OPSEC) being the number-one concern. In the past our reports were sent back via unsecured network, which had the potential to give away our position as well as personal information about our individual Marines."
The three next focused on the best way to report, deciding it was best to do it from the actual location of the unit. "That's why we are here today," said Lewis. "Lt. Gen. Martin Berndt, then Commanding General of II MEF, said that he wanted us to more efficiently and accurately support the deployed Marines. That is what we are doing."
When Lewis, Davis and Miller initially briefed the concept to General Berndt and he signed off on it, the MEU PAC was born.