Military


26th Marine Expeditionary Unit / 26 MEU
[Landing Force Sixth Fleet (LF6F)]

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operation Capable), or MEU(SOC), is a unique organization designed to be the first on-scene in the event of crisis. It takes more than 2,100 men and women to form the 26th MEU (SOC) team. This force spends 26 challenging weeks training on how to respond to everything from disaster and humanitarian assistance to all out conflict, or war. This 2,100+ strong Marine Air-Ground Task Force is formed around a task organized command element, a reinforced infantry battalion, a composite squadron with helicopters and vertical/short take-off and landing fixed wing aircraft, and a versatile support element that carries with it 15 days of supplies to support operations ashore.

The 26th MEU(SOC) is a highly adaptive, quick response force that can execute multiple and concurrent missions within just six hours of notification. The core missions of the MEU include: conventional operations, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP), humanitarian assistance (HA), noncombatant evacuation operations (NEO), and security operations. In order to conduct these missions the men and women of the 26th MEU(SOC) undergo an intensive 26-week, standardized pre-deployment training program. Successful completion of this program allows the MEU to be designated ieSpecial Operations Capable.

Marine Expeditionary Units, built on the concept of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force, are much like an athletic team whose coaching and training staffs remain permanently intact and receive athletes only for the season. The command element serves as the "coaching staff" for the combat and combat service support units under its command. These units are referred to as Major Subordinate Elements or MSEs. They serve on this "team" for one year. For the MARG 1-02 deployment the 26th MEU MSEs are Battalion Landing Team 3/6 (a reinforced infantry battalion with light armored vehicles, artillery and amphibious assault vehicles), which forms the ground combat element; HMM-365, a composite helicopter squadron (with air traffic control, crash, fire and rescue units, and AV-8B Harriers) that forms the aviation combat element; MEU Service Support Group-26, a combat service support element that provides logistical support; and the Command Element. The Command Element (CE) is the cohesive force that brings the elements of the 26th MEU (SOC) together. Housed within the CE are assets that allow the MEU commander to exercise command and control, such as the Marine air control group, as well as the force reconnaissance detachment.

The Combat Service Support Element (CSSE) is MEU Service Support Group 26 (MSSG-26). The MSSG-26 contains all the specialists necessary to keep our force in a high state of readiness. Included within this element are medical, dental, maintenance, communication, engineering and other technical experts.

The 26th MEU (SOC) is trained to conduct missions during the day, at night or in limited visibility. This flexibility, coupled with the ability to travel by both surface or air, give 26th MEU talents that are in demand. For example, in May of 1999 26th MEU provided security to refugee camps in Fier, Albania (Operation Shining Hope). At the same time Marines still aboard USS Kearsarge acted as the Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) Force as AV-8B Harriers showed their strength overhead by participating in the NATO bombing campaign over the former Republic of Yugosalvia (Operation Allied Force). Only one month later and in historic fashion the 26th MEU (SOC) again heard the nation's call. Ordered to be the First to Fight, they acted as the initial entry force for the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and peace support operations into Kosovo (Operation Joint Guardian). Following this successful mission, the Marines and Sailors redeployed aboard Amphibious Ready Group shipping to continue their vigil in the Mediterranean. Less than a month later 26th MEU services were needed again after a massive earthquake in Turkey (Operation Avid Response). The 26th MEU (SOC) assisted the Turkish government by providing tents, fresh water, supplies and medical attention.

For more than 20 years, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit has served as "America's Force in Readiness" in the Mediterranean Region. Established in the early 1970s as the 36th Marine Amphibious Unit, the MEU has deployed 14 times and participated in numerous contingency operations and training exercises.

  • 1975 -- 36th MAU participates in Exercise Staff Zugel in the Federal Republic of Germany. This marks the first time since World War I that Marines took a combined arms force ashore in Germany.
  • 1982 -- Unit redesigned as 26th Marine Amphibious Unit.
  • 1985 -- Rotation cycle of three MAUs on the East Coast is initiated.
  • 1985 -- 26th MAU becomes first unit to undergo Special Operations Capability training and earn the SOC qualification.
  • 1985 -- 26th MAU becomes first unit to have AV8-B Harriers attached.
  • 1988 -- All Marine Amphibious Units redesigned as Marine Expeditionary Units.
  • 1991 -- 26th MEU supports Operation Desert Shield by providing a "Show of Force" in the Mediterranean, and participates in Operation Sharp Edge, a a non-combatant evacuation operation of Liberia.
  • 1992 -- 26th MEU participates in Operations Provide Promise, Deny Flight and Sharp Guard off the coast of Yugoslavia.
  • 1994 -- 26th MEU participates in ceremonies marking the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France.
  • 1994 -- 26th MEU supports Operation Restore Hope off the coast of Somalia and participates in continuing operations in Bosnia.
  • 1995 -- 26th MEU becomes the first MEU to deploy with M-1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks.
  • 1996 -- 26th MEU becomes the first MEU to deploy with the Joint Task Force Enabler communications package
  • 1997 -- 26th MEU launches Operation Silver Wake, evacuating American citizens and Third Country Nationals from Albania.
  • 1997 -- 26th MEU participates in Operation Guardian Retrieval, the staging of forces in Congo for a possible evacuation of Zaire.
  • 1998 -- 26th MEU serves as the Headquarters for the Strategic Reserve Force during Exercise Dynamic Response in Bosnia. The SRF is a multinational force made up of forces from the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Romania, Poland and the United States.
  • 1998 -- 26th MEU participates in Determined Falcon, the one-day NATO aerial show-of-force in Kosovo.
  • April - May 1999 -- 26th MEU participates in Operations Noble Anvil and Shining Hope.  While supporting Noble Anvil, the NATO bombing Campaign in Kosovo with AV-8B Harrier Attack Aircraft, the MEU also provided security for Kosovar Refugees at Camps Hope and Eagle in Albania.
  • June - July 1999 -- 26th MEU participates in Operation Joint Guardian, as the first U.S. Peacekeepers in Kosovo the Marines and the Sailors of the MEU provided stability to the embattled region.
  • August 1999 -- 26th MEU participates in Operation Avid Response, providing Humanitarian Assistance to the people of Western Turkey left homeless by a devastating earthquake.
  • September 1999 -- The 26th MEU participates in Exercises Atlas Hinge in Tunisia and Northern Approach in Turkey.
  • September 2000 -- The 26th MEU conducted Adriatic presence operations during the election crisis in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.   The MEU also participated in exercises Atlas Hinge in Tunisia and Croatian Phibex 2000, the first ever bi-lateral exercise between the Marine Corps and the Croatian Armed Forces.
  • October 2000 -- The 26th MEU supported diplomatic initiatives during unrest in Israel while simultaneous taking part in the NATO exercise Destined Glory 2000. 
  • November 2000 -- The 26th MEU continued to break new ground by the second ever bi-lateral exercise between the Marine Corps and the Croatian Armed Forces, exercise Slunj 2000.  During this exercise the 26th MEU's Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment launched the first ever Javelin anti-tank missile fired by a deployed MEU.

For the MARG 3-00 deployment, the Ground Combat Element (GCE) was built around an infantry battalion, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, with attachments that included light armored vehicles, tanks, an artillery battery, a combat engineer platoon and an amphibious assault platoon. The Aviation Combat Element (ACE) for the 26th MEU(SOC) was Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 (HMM-264 Reinforced). This unit includes 12 CH-46E Sea Knight medium lift helicopters, four CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopters, four AH-1W Super Cobra gunships, two UH-1N utility helicopters and six AV-8B Harrier attack jets. These Marines traveled to their destinations aboard USS Saipan (LHA-2), USS Austin (LPD-4), and USS Ashland (LSD-48), a three ship U.S. Navy Amphibious Ready Group.

After nearly six months away from family and friends, numerous weeks in the field, countless days at sea and many lessons learned, Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) returned home 18 December 2000. That return marked the end of the MEU's deployment to the Mediterranean region as Landing Force 6th Fleet.

Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC, set out on 20 September 2001 for the Mediterranean Sea to begin a routine six-month deployment. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), along with amphibious forces from Spain and Egypt, performed a coordinated beach assault north of Mubarak Military City, Egypt 23 October 2001. The demonstration was the culmination of more than two weeks of coalition training during Exercise Bright Star 01-02.

In early November 2001 it was reported that the 2,200 Marines and sailors who spent October in Egypt would return home. The 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit had been participating in Bright Star, an exercise with nine other nations that included a total of 70,000 troops. Marines and sailors from Camp Pendleton, Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and Twentynine Palms Marine base took part in the monthlong drill with 21,000 other U.S. military members. However, other reports in late November 2001 suggested that the bulk of these Marines had remained in Egypt for potential deployment under Operation Enduring Freedom.

MARG 1-03

Members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and Amphibious Squadron-6 have embarked in early February 2003 aboard the USS Iwo Jima, USS Carter Hall and the USS Nashville for their final underway training evolution before deployment. The nearly ten-day exercise is scheduled to include as many as five raids in locations throughout Eastern North Carolina.

The 26th MEU departed North Carolina onboard the USS Iwo Jima and the two other ships in its ARG on or about March 5, 2003. The ARG and MEU began heading east towards the Med.

On April 12, 2003 elements of the 26th MEU (SOC) were ordered into Northern Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. By 18 April the unit joined coalition forces in the vicinity of Mosul, in northern Iraq. The mission of the MEU was to promote stability in the region and eliminate any remaining Iraqi forces still loyal to Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party regime.

On April 24, 2003 the first waves of Marines and Sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit begin to arrive aboard the ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group from Mosul, Iraq as Operation Iraqi Freedom continues to scale down.

The Marines and Sailors of Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/8, were among the first to arrive aboard the USS Nashville, on April 24, 2003. The Black Knights of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron - 264 (Reinforced) followed April 25, as the Navy and Marine Corps team aboard the USS Iwo Jima successfully recovered six CH-53E and six CH-46E helicopters with their pilots and aircrews. On April 26, maintenance and support personnel from the Black Knights along with Charlie Company personnel arrived aboard the USS Iwo Jima.

Maintenance and support personnel from the Black Knights along with Charlie Company personnel arrived aboard the USS Iwo Jima April 27, 2003. On April 28, Marines from Weapons Company, Combat Engineers and the Command Element arrived back aboard Naval shipping.

The last remaining Marines and Sailors of the 26th MEU arrived aboard the ARG on May 2, 2003. The MEU began focusing on cleaning and repairing gear and vehicles before reloading the ships and pressing on with its deployment.

Elements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and Amphibious Squadron-6 deployed into Albania on May 17, 2003 to begin a joint military exercise coordinated with the Ministry of Defense for Albania.

After completing two weeks of excellent bilateral training with Albanian military forces, Marines from the MEU returned to the ARG on May 29, 2003.

At the expansive Biza training ranges, BLT 1/8 and MSSG-26 Marines and Sailors conducted convoys, patrolling, numerous live-fire evolutions, rock climbing and other basic infantry training.

At the Tirane-Rinas International Airport, MSSG-26 Marines and Sailors focused on tactical convoys and combat sustenance over great distances through the air and on the ground. Also at the airport, HMM-264 (Reinforced) operated a forward arming and refueling point while numerous Marine helicopter pilots and aircrews logged numerous flight hours both day and night.

Additionally, VMGR-252's KC-130 Detachment again provided excellent support for the 26th MEU (SOC) providing critical sustenance for the MEU service members in Biza and aerial refueling for MEU AV-8B Harrier jumpjets and CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters.

The 26th MEU (SOC) Command Element established a command post at the airport and practiced long-range communications.

The 26th MEU (SOC) arrived in the Gulf of Aden shortly after transiting the Suez Canal where it supported Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) to fight the Global War on Terrorism across the region. The CJTF-HOA headquarters, formed specifically to oversee operations in the Horn of Africa for U.S. Central Command in support of the Global War on Terrorism, has a focused mission - to detect, disrupt and defeat transnational terrorist groups in the region and support Coalition partner efforts to deny the opportunity for reemergence of terrorist networks in the Horn of Africa.

On the morning of 18 July 2003, the remaining elements of the 26th MEU (SOC) returned to the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group after completing a successful eight-day training exercise in Djibouti, East Africa.

During this exercise, the MEU exercised a vast array of its combat capabilities including live-fire training for its tanks, artillery, infantry, light armored reconnaissance, combined anti-armor teams and the command element. MEU aviators conducted live-fire training as well with air delivered ordnance and several such opportunities for our light attack and assault helicopters. The MSSG provided excellent combat service support for the MEU in near 120-degree desert heat.

On August 6, 2003 a team of roughly 7 Marines were inserted into Monrovia, Liberia to provide logistical support to Nigerian peacekeepers.

Elements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit began to land in Monrovia on August 14, 2003. This was a Quick Reaction Force, comprised of Marines from the 1st Battalion, 8th marines. These are the first of some 200 Marines that are to operate in Liberia.

The 26th MEU returned to North Carolina on October 21, 2003.

MARG x-05

After nearly 11 months ashore, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit found itself right back where it ended its last deployment, aboard the USS Iwo Jima in Onslow Bay. The short-lived reunion Aug. 24 - 29 marked the first major 2004 exercise for the 26th MEU. Dubbed Amphibious Specialty Training-II (AST-II), the exercise took advantage of a unique opportunity for elements of the MEU to train together prior to the formal activation scheduled for the end of September.

The exercise included participation by components of Combat Service Support Detachment-26; 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-162 (HMM-162); Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-464 (HMH-464); Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron-269 (HMLA-269); and Marine Attack Squadron-231 (VMA-231). These components will comprise, in part, the combat service support, ground combat and aviation combat elements of the MEU when it is activated.

USS Iwo Jima, along with USS Ashland, USS Austin, USS Normandy and USS Kaufman, joined the MEU, enhancing the training with the presence of the broader Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). The MEU is scheduled to deploy with the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group in early 2005, but because USS Kearsarge deployed in support of the 24th MEU, the Iwo Jima was chosen by the Navy to provide support for this AST-II exercise.

The exercise, the first in a "crawl, walk, run" approach to preparing the Marines and Sailors of the MEU for deployment, focused primarily on baseline and unit-level training.

The MEU began normal pre-deployment training upon activation in late September.

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphious Squadron 8 wrapped up PHIBRON/MEU Integration Training Nov. 22, 2004.

The 26th MEU, conducted urban training in New Orleans on Dec. 4-16, 2004. The Marine Corps' first urban convoy with close-air support in a major U.S. city, the first parachute insertion of reconnaissance and surveillance teams during TRUEX, and a live video feed of combat operations beamed straight to the MEU's command post topped the list of notable "firsts" for the exercise.

The 26th MEU's next scheduled exercise wa to see the unit back at sea with USS Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group in January 2005 for its final exercise prior to the Special Operations Capable certification exercise in February.



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list