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    26th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducts NEO training amidst Sudan evacuation

    26th MEU NEO: Crowd Control

    Photo By Cpl. Kyle Jia | U.S. Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit utilize crowd control techniques...... read more read more



    Story by Capt. Angelica White 

    26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)     

    CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – For five days, a U.S. consulate in the small, fictitious country of “Obsidian” had been surrounded by protestors upset with the American presence in their coastal nation within the “Treasure Coast” region. Over the course of those few days violence increased and the regional situation continued to deteriorate.

    The Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), currently conducting Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise (ARG/MEUEX) recently conducted several training scenarios simulating an escalating situation involving a consulate overseas. The scenario included the deployment of the 26th MEU Forward Command Element (FCE), a rapid deployment (from the sea) of an Infantry Company to reinforce the consulate, the establishment of an Evacuation Control Center (ECC), and the conduct of a Noncombatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) within a realistic training scenario in the littorals of eastern North Carolina.

    First, the 26th MEU deployed its Forward Command Element (FCE) led by the 26th MEU Executive Officer and composed of key members of the 26th MEU across warfighting functions, including elements of Naval Special Warfare Command, the same command that pulled off the extraction in Sudan, to liaise with Department of State and other representatives at the U.S. Consulate. An FCE is a unique MEU capability specially trained to rapidly deploy in order to integrate with representatives from across the interagency and with our partners and allies to set conditions for follow-on MEU Marine Air-Ground Task Force operations or activities. Once an FCE arrives and is synchronized with a consulate or embassy, they plan and coordinate MEU resources to support contingency response options for the Department of State. During this NEO training scenario, it began with the rapid insertion of a specialized security force to protect and defend the consulate/embassy, and then escalated into a full NEO where American citizens were evacuated and transported to the ships of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (BAT ARG) and follow-on safe havens.

    “This NEO training scenario and the entire ARG/MEUX is a great opportunity for the 26th MEU and BAT ARG to work through all the steps in the process and to refine our standard operating procedures for this special type of MEU mission from the sea,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Dennis Sampson, the Commanding Officer of the 26th MEU. For this scenario, that means “positioning ships in the right area to ensure the Marines can respond quickly, to realistic interactions with members from the Department of State, to conducting riot control and responding to realistic contingencies, to setting up the ECC, and to conducting the evacuation and processing evacuees aboard ships in support of our national interests and national security objectives within the region.”

    The 26th MEU NEO training coincides with emerging real-world events, which highlight the critical need for a forward-deployed MEU capable of responding to crises and other emergent requirements. In the past several months alone, a few events, such as the earthquakes in Türkiye and the evacuation of American personnel from the embassy in Sudan, highlight the need of an ARG/MEU forward-deployed within the Tri-Geographic Combatant Command region of EUCOM, AFRICOM, and CENTCOM. More so, exercises like ARG/MEUEX truly showcase the relevance, capability, and operational flexibility the ARG/MEU provides to the Geographic Combatant Commander and Fleet Commander.

    “Bringing it down very simply. If there’s not a near port available on the ground or there’s not an easy way to move AMCITS [American citizens] out, bringing in an Amphibious Ready Group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit into the littorals, close to shore, going in and getting folks and getting them out that’s a unique capability that our Navy and Marine Corps team brings,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Martin Robertson, the Commander of Amphibious Squadron 8.

    NEOs are a critical mission essential task special to Marine Expeditionary Units. It requires special training for the force and a close synchronization of the Navy-Marine Corps team to successfully execute, involving the rapid deployment of personnel to support a disaggregated location – normally meaning the use of aircraft from aboard ship, to shore, and back aboard – the positioning of ships to best support the transportation of people, medical capabilities ranging from basic screening to potential life-saving care, and finally the communications network to ensure it all flows smoothly. Logistically, it is a feat requiring the cooperation of an entire ARG/MEU.

    “There’s not a Marine or a Sailor on this team that’s not performing a specific task that sets conditions for our success during this NEO training event,” said Sampson. In regards to the NEO execution Sampson said “this integrated training rep within a realistic training scenario is an opportunity to showcase the relevance and operational flexibility of the ARG/MEU team. The MEU Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) when coupled with the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) provides the Fleet Commander, Joint Task Force Commander, or Geographic Combatant Commander with a credible crisis response force and flexible response options.”

    In the end the 26th MEU / BAT ARG worked together, within the realistic training scenario, to successfully evacuate over 500 Americans and consular personnel from a dangerous situation, moving them to a staging location and subsequently flying them to the triad of ships operating in the Atlantic Ocean. The BAT ARG is comprised of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), and the Harpers Ferry class dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50). Once aboard the ships, the evacuees were processed – some (simulated injured) were treated for serious medical emergencies – and then sent to a follow-on location. Sampson recognizes this training event and the performance of the team as a big win but also as another opportunity to build upon lessons learned during previous training events and lessons learned from past real-world NEOs in order to ensure the Marines and Sailors are prepared for the upcoming deployment. “We’ve been thinking about NEO and FHA (foreign humanitarian assistance) operations for a long time and these collective training events allow us to train within a realistic scenario reflective of our future operating environment to ensure we are poised to respond across the spectrum once we are forward deployed.”

    The 26th MEU serves as one of the Nation’s premier crisis response forces capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response, and limited contingency operations, to include enabling the introduction of follow-on forces and designated special operations, in support of theater requirements of the Geographic Combatant Commander. Coupled with the BAT ARG, the 26th MEU serves as a premier stand-in force with a full complement of all-domain capabilities to operate persistently within the littorals or weapons engagement zones of an adversary.



    Date Taken: 04.27.2023
    Date Posted: 04.28.2023 10:45
    Story ID: 443576
    Location: CAMP LEJEUNE, NC, US

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