U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY -- After wrapping up a successful peace support operation in Kosovo and crossing through the Suez Canal, the Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) put their combined arms firing ability to the test with a bilateral live-fire military exercise here.
During the exercise, Marines from the Battalion Landing Team and Aviation Combat Element pounded the desert landscape with more than 225,000 rounds. This included everything from M-16A2s, .50 caliber machine guns, tanks, artillery, mortars and a few Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided (TOW) missiles on the ground side to 2.75 inch rockets, 20 mm gatling guns and precision bombs on the air side.
"It was a chance to put our heavy weapons ashore and fire," said Col. Richard Mills, Commanding Officer, 24th MEU (SOC). "This exercise is great sustainment training in tactics and techniques required in a high-intensity conflict.
Without many opportunities to conduct this type of training back home, the MEU took full advantage of their time ashore.
Marines from BLT, 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines, conducted daily weapons shoots, which included M-240G, MK-19 and .50 caliber machine guns. Gunners from Weapons Company also fired several TOW missiles. Along with all the firing the "line companies" ran several squad and platoon live-fire attack courses, which tested their ability to fire and maneuver in small units.
At the same time, Marines from Fox Battery were making it rain hot steel as they pounded the impact area with the M-198 155 mm Howitzers while testing their ability to shoot, move and communicate in a harsh desert environment. This was also the first time the battery was able to fire since leaving Camp Lejeune back in August.
Along with the artillery, the MEU's tankers also got their first chance to bring their M1-A1 Tanks ashore. They took full advantage of their time off the ship as they pulverized targets around the area with the 120 mm main guns and M-240G machine gun fire.
As the "grunts" did their thing on the ground, Marines from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 refreshed their skills as forward air controllers by calling for fire from the sky. They also provided close-air support day and night with the 2.75-inch rockets and machine guns. But firing wasn't the only thing the ACE was doing here. Marines from the aviation ordnance and bulk fuels sections were put to the test loading and refueling the "birds" in the dusty, dry and windy environment of the desert.
Marines from the Command Element joined in, conducting several sustainment training classes covering areas such as first aid, proper weapons handling and field communications.
With the chance to practice combined arms being crucial to the MEU, none of the training would have been possible without MEU Service Support Group 24 -- who made the MEU self-sustainable by providing food, water, supplies and maintenance capabilities the duration of the exercise.
One key element of the "G" was their Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU), which provided up to 24,000 gallons of water a day for the MEU.
While the focus of the exercise was on combined arms, each major subordinate element displayed what it brings to table and tested the MEU's ability to sustain itself while conducting combined arms operations
"The Marines and Sailors of the MEU did a great job," said Mills. "To do something of this magnitude and do it safely is a real testimony to their professionalism."