OFF THE COAST OF NORTH CAROLINA --
The 2,300 Marines and Sailors of the Camp Lejeune-based 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are headed across the Atlantic on a scheduled eight-month deployment to serve as a theater reserve and crisis response force in support of the U.S. European, Africa and Central Commands.
The 24th MEU spent the week embarking aboard amphibious assault ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, which include the USS Iwo Jima, USS Gunston Hall and the USS New York, a new ship built with steel from the World Trade Center which is deploying on its maiden voyage. The Marines began loading personnel at Norfolk Naval Base, Va., and completed their embark operations by using the Morehead City Port facility; flying their aircraft onto the ships straight from Marine Corps Air Stations New River and Cherry Point; and by using Navy hovercrafts to load personnel and equipment from the beach at Camp Lejeune. The 24th MEU is deploying after completing an extensive, six-month training cycle that has tested the ability of the unit to perform a wide range of missions as a Marine Air Ground Task Force. The commanding officer of the 24th MEU, Col. Frank Donovan, says that he is confident his Marines are prepared and ready to be called on. “We want our higher headquarters, the nation and our international partners to have the confidence to employ the ARG/MEU team as an expeditionary task force, and have the confidence to consider the art of the “possible” when it comes to our employment,” said Donovan. As a crisis response force the 24th MEU and its Navy counterparts of the Iwo Jima ARG are prepared to conduct a variety of mission including full-scale combat, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and evacuation operations. The 24th MEU has been actively engaged in crisis response during their past few deployments. In 2006 they participated in the evacuation of American citizens from Lebanon. In 2009 the 24th MEU deployed straight to Afghanistan where they lead an opening offensive against the Taliban in the Helmand province. On their most recent deployment in 2010 the 24th MEU participated in earthquake relief operations in Haiti during Operation Unified Response. When not responding to such crises a key mission for the team will be conducting theater security cooperation exercises with partnered nations. Theater security cooperation exercises allow the U.S. to engage, train with, and learn from various nations throughout the world. “We don’t look at foreign engagement as an opportunity for others to learn from us; we look at it as an opportunity for our Marines to learn from others,” said Donovan. “The second part of foreign engagement is that the better we know our partners, the easier it is to respond to crises because we’ll have additional friends in the region who we can partner with to solve problems. We’re looking forward to learning about other cultures and operating in new environments.” One of the 24th MEU’s first scheduled events is to participate in Exercise African Lion, a bi-lateral exercise between U.S. and Moroccan forces that will include various types of military training and visits with Moroccan military partners. As they travel throughout their deployment the Marines and Sailors may also have the opportunity to conduct port stops in the Mediterranean and Middle East where service members will be allowed off the ships to sight see, conduct community relations projects and visit other countries. “Port stops are a chance for our young Marines and Sailors to serve as ambassadors of the United States. It’s another great opportunity for us to learn about other cultures and for our young men and women to see parts of the world they may never have the chance to visit on their own,” said Donovan. Regarding future MEU missions, Donovan said that “everything we do has to continue to build on our foundations and continue to bolster our senior leaders trust and confidence. When a Geographic Combatant Commander knows he has a fully-trained MEU that is ready to go, the chance of employment is higher. Whether it’s theater security or crisis response, we’re ready.” The 24th MEU’s major subordinate units include: Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, Second Marine Regiment; Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (Reinforced); and Combat Logistics Battalion 24. As a complete Marine Air Ground Task Force the MEU brings with it a compliment of aircraft centered around an MV-22 Osprey Squadron, and also includes Cobra and Huey attack helicopters, Harrier jets all of which are embarked on ship. A C-130 transport and refueling unit will pre-position at land bases throughout the world to support the MEU. The MEU also brings a variety of ground equipment and capabilities that include an assortment of vehicles, tanks, assault amphibious vehicles, water purification, explosive ordnance disposal and organic medical capability. “We have a great team, and we’re ready to push our amphibious, expeditionary capability to the next level. We’re ready to do the job – and that job can be anything, anywhere in the world,” concluded Donovan. For more information or for imagery and video of the 24th MEU, visit the unit's websites: http://www.marines.mil/unit/24thmeu http://www.facebook.com/24thmeu http://www.flickr.com/24meu http://www.dvidshub.net/units/24meu http://www.twitter.com/24thmeu If media are interested in obtaining more information please contact the following: Capt. Robert Shuford – Robert.email@example.com 2nd Lt. Joshua W. Larson – firstname.lastname@example.org For immediate public affairs assistance contact the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs office at 910-451-7200. Background Information about Marine Expeditionary Units
What is a MEU?
Marine Air Ground Task Force Since World War II, in nearly every crisis, the United States Marine Corps has deployed projection forces, with the ability to move ashore with sufficient sustainability for prolonged operations. These forces have been organized into Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTF) a combination of air, ground, and support assets. MAGTFs are established for specific missions, or in anticipation of a wide range of possible missions. Combining air, ground, and logistic assets maximizes the combat power of each of the war fighting elements. MAGTFs have long provided the United States with a broad spectrum of response options when U.S. and allied interests have been threatened and in non-combat situations which require instant response to crisis. Selective, timely and credible commitment of air-ground units have, on many occasions, helped bring stability to a region and sent signals worldwide to aggressors that the United States is willing to defend its interests, and is able to do so with a significantly powerful force on extremely short notice.
Marine Expeditionary Unit
The MEU is the smallest of the Marine Air Ground Task Forces and is comprised of about 2,300 Marines and Sailors. The MEU's major elements are the Command Element (CE), the Ground Combat Element (GCE), the Aviation Combat Element (ACE), and the Logistics Combat Element (LCE).
The Command Element (CE)
The CE is comprised of the commanding officer and supporting staff -- about 250 Marines and Sailors. It provides the overall command and control essential for effective planning and execution of operations and synchronizes the actions of each element within the MEU. Skill sets falling under the command element include administration, intelligence, operations, logistics and embarkation, communications, legal and public affairs.
Ground Combat Element (GCE)
The GCE, about 1,200 strong, is built around an infantry battalion and provides the over-land combat power for the MEU. Assets inherent within the standard infantry battalion include medium and heavy machine guns, mortars, combined anti-armor teams (CAAT) and scout snipers. While assigned to the MEU, the unit, designated "Battalion Landing Team," is reinforced with light armored reconnaissance vehicles (LAV), tanks, artillery, combat engineers and assault amphibian vehicles (AAV).
Aviation Combat Element (ACE)
The ACE is a composite squadron that provides the MEU medium to heavy lift capability, assault support and close air support (CAS). Its assets include MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopters, AH-1 Super Cobra helicopter gunships, UH-1 Huey utility helicopters and AV-8B Harrier jump jets. With a force strength of approximately 500, the ACE includes air traffic control, aircraft maintenance/support and aviation logistics/supply capabilities.
Logistics Combat Element (LCE)
About 250 Marines and Sailors of the LCE provide combat support such as supply; maintenance; transportation; explosive ordnance disposal; military police; water production and distribution; engineering; medical and dental services; fuel storage and distribution; and other services to the deployed MEU. The LCE gives the MEU the ability to support itself for 15 days in austere expeditionary environments.