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MSSG-24 tests humanitarian assistance capabilities

17 Mar 2004 | Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

In an effort to establish standard operating procedures, Marines from 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Combat Service Support Element, MEU Service Support Group 24, conducted a Humanitarian Assistance exercise here March 16.

The exercise brought together Marines from every detachment in the MSSG and tested their ability to construct a humanitarian-assistance camp and process displaced people. A representative from II Marine Expeditionary Force's Special Operations Training Group was also on hand to evaluate the Marines and act as a role player for the scenario they were given.

In the scenario, the Marines of MSSG-24 were providing assistance to, among others, the children and staff of a local orphanage, after guerrilla forces had come through and destroyed their town.

"This is the first time we have done one of these," said 1st Lt. Adrien Thom of Lafayette, La., and the Humanitarian Assistance officer-in-charge. "We were pretty much working out our [Standard Operating Procedures] and coming together to accomplish the mission."

"This is one of the MSSG's three main [Special Operations Capable] missions," added Thom. "It is probably the most labor intensive and has the most moving parts because the situation out there is always changing."

The other missions in which the MSSG plays a key role are a noncombatant evacuation operation and a mass casualty operation.

Within three and a half hours of arriving at the site, the Marines of MSSG-24 had their camp up and running.  The camp, which included a security perimeter of concertina wire and 16 tents, provided everything from medical and dental care to food and supplies.

"The Marines did an outstanding job out there," said Thom. "Motivation was high and we had some great [noncommissioned officer] leadership. This allowed us to [adjust] as the mission required."

The exercise highlighted the MSSG's strengths and allowed them to see what areas needed improvement.

"One thing we needed to improve upon was our communications," said Thom. "But I think we will be more prepared for the next time, and now we have a good starting point to work from and room to improve."