U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY -- When the need arises for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) to deliver some of its awesome firepower or provide a link to a host country, a small unit within the MEU's Command Element is there to answer that call.
They are the Marines of the Marine Liaison Element, formerly called Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company.
"The MLE provides coalition liaison between the country we are in and the MEU commander back at base camp," said Capt. Michael Rainwater, MLE officer-in-charge. "We also coordinate all aspects of gunfire, be it naval, artillery, or CAS (Close Air Support), for the country we are operating in."
The MLE also are one of the first units to be deployed when the Marines come ashore in a foreign country.
"When we are sent to an area it is important for us to get in there first so that we can liaison with the host country and coalition forces to begin our mission of support and assistance, "said Rainwater. "We have to know where we want to drop our rounds, so someone has to be out there send back the information."
To do this job, MLE uses "call for fire" to call in the positions and which type of artillery to use.
"Call for fire is basically used to call in the four forms of gunfire we use," said Staff Sgt. James Eddleman, staff non-commissioned-officer-in-charge of the MLE. "Those forms being naval gunfire, field artillery, CAS, or the 81mm mortars. In order for us to call in naval gunfire we have to call back to the SACC (Supporting Arms Coordinating Center) on USS Nassau (LHA-4) and have them dispatch the proper ship for the job."
"We are trained to control just about any gun supporting system that our military employs. We can also coordinate fire from the Army, Navy or the Air Force," said Rainwater. "Training with other branches and units is paramount for us to be able to successfully complete our mission."
Since they have such a diverse and special role in the MEU, MLE is comprised of Marines from several different Military Occupational Specialties. They mainly come from 0621 (field radio operators) and 0861 (artillery scout observers) fields, but they all know how to do each other's jobs, as well as, possess infantry skills and the knowledge to perform basic maintenance on weapons and vehicles.
Just because the MLE has a different mission from the rest of the Marines that, does not mean that they consider themselves different from the Corps.
"We are no different then everyone else that is out here. We may only have a small detachment, but we are all Marines doing the same thing, for the same reason," said Eddleman.