CAMP PENDLETON, CA, UNITED STATES
During their culminating training event, Marines and Sailors from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted their final Humanitarian Assistance Operation exercise during the MEU's Certification Exercise, the last week.
The Marines and Sailors of Combat Logistics Battalion 15 are the lead element for a HAO. Two previous at-sea training exercises allowed CLB-15 to embark on the mission with a stronger level of preparedness.
It was controlled chaos when the Marines and Sailors arrived at the first HAO site, quickly setting up a perimeter and eventually constructing the distribution site.
"This time around everything was much more organized, even though we had more role players we all knew our job better and we set everything up a lot quicker," said Lance Cpl. Ryan Ritthaler, motor transport operator, CLB-15.
The HAO exercises the 15th MEU did during their last two training periods came with many unexpected problems. This time the Marines were ready to do it better and faster.
"Last time we did a multi-site operation, having adequate resources was a challenge," said 1st Lt. Rachael McKenney, combat engineer officer-in-charge, CLB-15. McKenney explained how this time around, her Marines were better prepared and tackled every problem faced head on to get the mission accomplished.
With the logistics and procedures already branded in their minds, the Marines and Sailors had a chance to learn the people and interact with them more.
"It felt great to be out there, even tough it was training I still played the role, and even tried to learn a few words of the role players' language," said Ritthaler, a 20-year-old native of Detroit, Mich.
The Navy corpsmen were heavily tasked during the exercise, constantly evaluating and treating incoming patients.
"I got bombarded with a lot of patients," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Manuel Arellano, hospital corpsman, CLB-15. "It got really hectic, but because of all the training we had done during the previous HAO's, I was able to help everyone accurately and in a timely matter."
The training was kicked up a notch, with role-players in labor, some suffering from malaria, and others on the brink of death.
"It was definitely more realistic than the other times," explained Arellano, a 20-year-old native from San Bernardino, Calif. "I got to use a lot more of my skill as a corpsman that I could be doing on this deployment."
The ending of the HAO marked the imminent beginning of the 15th MEU's upcoming deployment. The Marines and Sailors knew that in a few weeks they could be doing exactly what they're training for.
"It really affects you to know that we might get sent out and be doing this in real life," said Ritthaler. "That's why I'm glad we had so much training during our workups on doing a HAO."
With all the current world events, a HAO might be one of the missions the 15th MEU is tasked with during its upcoming deployment.
"A HAO is definitely one of the most likely scenarios we will end up doing during this deployment," explained McKenney, a 26-year-old Babylon, New York native.
The warrior mentality is definitely at a Marines core, but can change depending on the mission.
"Doing a HAO mission is all about the mindset that you're there to help them," explained McKenney. "If you can keep that you are definitely going to be successful."
||CAMP PENDLETON, CA, US
This work, Combat Logistics Battalion 15 improves on past success in CERTEX HAO, by Cpl Gabriel Velasquez, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.