15th Marine Expeditionary Unit / 15 MEU
Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and soldiers successfully fended off a small arms attack and recovered a disabled U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter during Operation Enduring Freedom 20 October 2001. Harrier pilots with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) flew bombing missions on Taliban and al-Qaida command and control targets in Southern Afghanistan for the first time in support of Operation Enduring Freedom 03 November 2001.
Marines and Sailors from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) went on a 'motivation' run in Djibouti November 14, 2001. Marines and Sailors from the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) provided humanitarian assistance to the people of Hol-Hol for a week while the remainder of the ARG continued to support Operation Enduring Freedom in the North Arabian Sea. The Marines and Sailors treated almost 1,700 medical and dental patients, installed generators, solar panels and sanitation systems, and trained Djiboutian Army medics.
After participating in Combined Armed Exercise (CAX) 1-01 from 01 October 2000 - 21 October 2000, 1st Battalion 1st Marines 3rd Marine Division attached to 15th MEU in February 2001 for an August 2001 deployment. Along with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (reinforced) and MEU Service Support Group 15 joined the 15th MEU Command Element 12 February 2001. They underwent an extensive six-month training period prior to embarking in August 2001 on a planned six-month deployment to the Western Pacific, India Ocean and Arabian Gulf.
The 15th MEU, working with PHIBRON-1 and the Peleliu ARG, is one of the three West Coast based ARG/MEUs from Camp Pendleton and San Diego, Calif. These units are routinely rotated through the Western Pacific/Southwest Asia region for six months at a time. The MEU's major elements are the Command Element (CE), the Ground Combat Element (GCE), the Aviation Combat Element (ACE), and the Combat Service Support Element (CSSE).
The CE is comprised of the commanding officer and supporting staff -- about 200 Marines and Sailors. It provides the command and coordination essential for effective planning and execution of operations. In addition, the MEU CE is reinforced with specialized detachments, such as reconnaissance and surveillance elements, radio reconnaissance and electronic countermeasure teams, intelligence and counterintelligence assets, and advanced communications.
The GCE for the 15th MEU is Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/1. About 1,200 strong, it is based on the infantry battalion. It is reinforced with an artillery battery, amphibious assault vehicle platoon, combat engineer platoon, light armored reconnaissance company, an M1A1 Main Battle Tank platoon and a reconnaissance platoon.
Roughly 350 Marines and Sailors of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 163 (Rein) provide air support for the 15th MEU. The composition of the ACE is based on the tactical situation, the MAGTF's mission and size, and space limitations within the ARG. HMM-163 (Rein) is comprised of CH-53E Super Stallion, CH-46E Sea Knight, UH-1N Huey and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters, and AV-8B Harrier jets. The ACE also has two KC-130 transport planes on standby at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. The ACE includes air traffic control, air defense, aircraft maintenance/support and aviation logistics/supply capabilities.
The final major element of the MEU is MEU Service Support Group (MSSG) 15, the CSSE. About 300 Marines and Sailors of the MSSG provide combat support, specifically 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 MSSG gives the MEU the ability to support itself for 15 days in austere expeditionary environments.
In April 1983, the Commandant of the Marine Corps approved the original permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Headquarters concept, providing for the sourcing of two Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) headquarters from each Marine Amphibious Brigade headquarters. The Commandant directed the establishment of two additional MAU headquarters in November 1985. As a result, on 1 Jul 87, at Camp Pendleton, the Headquarters, 15th MAU was activated under the command of Colonel M. T. Hopgood, Jr.
In August 1987, the Commandant directed the replacement of the title 'Headquarters' with 'Command Element' in the titles of the MAGTF's. The 15th MAU's designation was further changed in February 1988 to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Both changes were made to more accurately reflect the operational and expeditionary nature of the MAGTF. Prior to World War II, and in the period between the war and the Vietnam conflict, Marine units dispatched for overseas service were generally designated as "expeditionary brigades". From its activation in July 1987, the 15th MEU has been training to meet its mission in the rotation with the 11th and 13th MEUs in order to provide a continuous presence in the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf and as a ready MAGTF in the Continental United States. In October 1989, the MEU assisted in the relief efforts following the San Francisco earthquake. They not only excelled at their assigned missions but took on several volunteer projects which helped the victims of the disaster.
Marines of the 15th MEU conducted the evacuation of the Republic of the Philippines in June 1991 after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. On 9 Dec. 92, the 15th MEU, including Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/9, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 164 and MEU Service Support Group (MSSG) 15, launched Operation Restore Hope to assist in the civil war torn and famine stricken country of Somalia. After securing the capital city of Mogadishu and the American Embassy on the first day, they quickly moved out to outlying areas of Berdera, Baido and Kismayo to assist in the protection of food distribution convoys and patrolling the streets to restore order.
During its deployment in 1994, the MEU provided a detachment of CH-53E's to assist in the Rwanda Relief Effort. The Detachment, based in Entebbe Uganda, provided the only heavy lift capability to the Joint Task Force Commander. A few weeks later the MEU answered the call again, this time assisting in the relocation of the United States Liaison Office from Mogadishu Somalia to Nairobi Kenya.
In October 1994 the MEU was called on again to provide a quick reaction force to counter any possible Iraqi aggression against Kuwait. Within 48 hours the MEU sent Marines ashore in Kuwait City to demonstrate U.S. resolve in maintaining peace and security in the area. In January 1996 and again in July 1997 the AV-8B Harriers from the 15th MEU (SOC) participated in Operation Southern Watch, which involves patrolling the coalition-imposed no-fly-zone over southern Iraq in order to maintain continuous surveillance of the Kuwait-Iraq border, and to ensure the Iraqi military doesn't violate U.N. resolutions passed since the Gulf War.
The Marines and Sailors of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) began their six-month deployment 22 June 1998 as the ships of the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group departed Naval Station, San Diego. The deployment was the culmination of six-months of intense training which tested the 15th MEU and the ARG's ability to plan, coordinate and launch several different types of missions. The 15th MEU (SOC) included Battalion Landing Team 3/1, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (Reinforced) 163 and MEU Service Support Group 15. More than 2,000 Marines and Sailors aboard USS Essex, USS Duluth and USS Anchorage replaced the 11th MEU (SOC) on deployment. The 15th MEU was scheduled to make liberty calls in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Australia during the course of their deployment. The MEU's final destination was the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf where they conducted several exercises with African and Middle East countries. The 15th MEU (SOC) returned from forward deployment in late December 1998, and as of 01 February 1999, the 15th MEU stood down.
Deployed during the second half of 2000, the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) consisted of USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), USS DENVER (LPD-9), USS PEARL HARBOR (LSD-52) and the Fifteenth Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) (MEU(SOC)). Embarked onboard were Commander, Amphibious Squadron THREE and Staff, Helicopter Support Squadron ELEVEN and Assault Craft Unit FIVE. During the millennium Westpac, the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) was involved in many vital operations and exercises, including support to peacekeeping and humanitarian operations of the international forces in East Timor.
On January 9th, 2003, the 15th MEU further enhanced their NBC skills by simulating a NBC attack on a naval vessel in anticipation of being deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The USS Tarawa, the rest of her Amphibious Ready Group, and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit has deployed on January 6, 2003. While this deployment has been previously scheduled, it is believed that she will transit directly to the Persian Gulf. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), which was the first Marine force on the ground in Afghanistan at the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, began moving ashore at a port in Kuwait just after dawn Feb. 12, 2003. The unit brings with it 2,000-plus highly-trained Marines who are certified capable of completing numerous operations to include airfield seizures, tactical recoveries of personnel and aircraft, amphibious raids and humanitarian assistance.
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