News: 15th MEU embarks on CERTEX
Story by Cpl. Paul Torres
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., -- Marines and Sailors with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed their Certification Exercise, aboard USS Peleliu, USS Dubuque and USS Pearl Harbor, April 26.
"The MEU Certification Exercise was the final training and evaluation point before we deploy," stated Col. Roy A. Osborn, commanding officer, 15th MEU.
"This was the last opportunity to go through our mission sets. This time we conducted training with Marine evaluators from the 13th MEU and 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. Also, during this at-sea period, we were near 100% load out to ensure that everything we bring fits and works before we deploy."
The Certification Exercise lasted roughly two weeks, during which the 15th MEU executed various operations. The planning is based on procedures developed during two previous exercises.
"The main point of CERTEX was to further refine our standard operational procedures. It's a validation of the measures we've put into place and we tested those procedures in a more dynamic way than we have in the past," said Lt. Col. Paul Rayfield, executive officer, 15th MEU.
During CERTEX, the 15th MEU will employ those procedures and execute an assortment of missions.
"We ran a lot of scenario based missions such as a noncombatant evacuation or humanitarian assistance operation, to amphibious raids utilizing both landing craft and helicopters. We are honing our skills so we're as good as we can be as the nation's force in readiness." added Rayfield.
To aid in the training process, Marine and civilian evaluators were present to certify the MEU's ability to execute each mission.
"We were evaluated by the 13th MEU," stated Osborn, a 48-year-old native of Trinity, Texas. "It gave them an opportunity to evaluate our operating procedures, which will help them plan their deployment and training. They observed us and learned from the lessons we learned and got some hands on experience."
The evaluators' input will give the 15th MEU a look at how they developed throughout their workups. Additionally, it shows potential commanders the 15th MEU is prepared for real-world scenarios.
"CERTEX is a formal step in the training process that allows I MEF and Marine Force Pacific to advertise the MEU's ability to execute their mission set," said Col. David W. Coffman, commanding officer, 13th MEU. "It enables the combatant commanders of U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Central Command to be aware of what type of asset the MEU is. It also shows that they can be confident in the MEU's abilities."
The final exercise also allowed the 13th MEU some perspective on what is expected from them prior to their deployment.
"As commander of the 13th MEU, this is an opportunity to observe how the 15th MEU gets the job done," said Coffman, a 46-year-old native of Eustis, Fla. "I have brought most of my principal staff and we also have observers at the battalion, logistics and squadron level who will be able to provide input when we start our work up process some time this summer. This training process is very important because the MEU's play a significant role to maintaining the military's forward competencies overseas. This is a good example of how I MEF MEU's are able to sharpen and train each other to make sure we are successful."
The work up process for the 15th MEU wasn't without its share of obstacles. Bad weather and ship repairs added to the tension. As always, Marines and Sailors adapted to their environment and overcame the obstacles.
"Weather always plays a significant factor," remarked Osborn. "We have not had good weather during training. The fog made it difficult for amphibious operations, but now we know that even during bad weather we can function."
Additionally, inclement weather during the previous at-sea period forced USS Dubuque to undergo repairs. Consequently, Marines relocated and established a Forward Operating Base.
"We were able to establish a FOB with which we had full communication and air support," stated Osborn. "We treated them as a unit we have deployed to a host country which has given us the opportunity to exercise our command and control capabilities on land, while maintaining the logistics of our sea-based operational capability."
The ability to adapt and overcome is a valuable quality the Marines and Sailors of the 15th MEU have as they prepare for the upcoming deployment.
"My goal was to be ready for deployment by the commencement of CERTEX," stated Osborn. "I believe we are both mission capable and ready to deploy at this point. The Marines have not had much down time with their families, and even after CERTEX they will have a lot of preparing to do. If I could tell their families one thing, I would stress that the Marines and Sailors of the 15th MEU and Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group are ready."
"We are living in challenging times and will be deployed to challenging parts of the world," acknowledged Osborn. "This is the reason why the training we conduct is so important."