24th MEU kicks off intense training cycle

27 Aug 2007 | Cpl. Randall A. Clinton

Combat Logistics Battalion 24 and Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment arrived in Fort Pickett, Va., kick-starting the intense training cycle of the recently activated 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Approximately 1,000 Marines of the MEU’s BLT packed their gear and journeyed for the first of many large scale movements.

“This provided us an opportunity to exercise the command, control and logistics of the Battalion Landing Team,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Andrew Hampton, operations chief, BLT 1/6.

The battalion entered 45,867 acres intent on fine-tuning their war fighting capabilities at the individual, team and squad levels he added.

“(We will focus on) live fire exercises and small unit tactics to build unit cohesion,” said Cpl. Scott Atwell, team leader, 3rd platoon, Bravo Company, BLT 1/6.

Atwell and the rest of the BLT have a complex task in preparing for deployment. Their unit has 23 separate missions it must be ready to accomplish at the call of the MEU commanding officer, but for the moment setting a solid foundation junior Marines is priority.

“We have to teach the little things before we get into the big movements,” said Atwell, specifically “how we work together in a room clearing or on a patrol.”

He has a specific end state for his troops and is positive they will step up to the task.

“I would like (a situation) where they don’t look to the team leader or the squad leader – they do the right thing without asking. It will come as second nature,” he explained.

Joining the BLT on are more than 250 Marines from the 24th MEU’s logistical support element, CLB-24. Their work for this training operation started at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where they loaded approximately 500 crates, boxes, equipment and vehicles on rail cars destined for Fort Pickett.

The operation is similar to the on-loading/off-loading operations the CLB will perform each time the 24th MEU heads into port.

“We do anything that involves movement,” said Cpl. Tommy Fowler, 21, 24 landing support specialist, CLB-24.

When combined with the heavy lift capability of the Air Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365, the CLB offers infantry Marines a sustainable supply chain able to reach some of the most isolate locations, he added.

“If the BLT needs something it can get (air lifted) out to them through us,” he added.

Along with supporting the BLT, CLB Marines have a full schedule planned. Training includes humanitarian assistance, mass casualty, medical, convoy operations and machine gun training, said Sgt. Alicia Corey, 23, landing support specialist, CLB-24.

Because of the unknown nature of a MEU’s deployment, all Marines need to be ready to perform a plethora of tasks associated with their job. These all-encompassing training and deployment experiences prepare Marines for whatever comes next in their career, she added.

As two elements of the 24th MEU dig in on land, the Command Element and HMM-365 (REIN) are conducting familiarization drills aboard the USS Nassau.