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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit / 11 MEU

The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), originally designated the 17th Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU), formed at Camp Pendleton, California, on April 13, 1979.

The MAU was created to plan and participate in large-scale amphibious training exercises. In its early days, the unit also fulfilled requirements for a west-coast based MAU to respond to contingencies, but was normally activated and deactivated based largely upon scheduled amphibious landing exercises directed by the Commander, Third Fleet. During this time, the billet of MAU Commanding Officer alternated between Regimental and Aircraft Group Commanders who filled the billet in six-month increments as a secondary duty during their tenures in command.

In 1983 the Marine Corps directed a change that resulted in the first renaming of the 17th MAU. The decision was made to "source" the continuously deployed Western Pacific (WESTPAC) MAUs from I Marine Amphibious Force units in Southern California. Previously, their units came from the 1st Marine Brigade in Hawaii. This resulted in the renaming of the 17th MAU to the 11th MAU on July 20, 1984.

A second name change took place on February 5, 1988, when the Marine Corps more clearly defined the multiple capabilities of its Marine Air-Ground Task Forces. "Amphibious" was changed to "Expeditionary," and the unit was given its current designation - the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

While the unit's designation has changed, the mission of the 11th MEU has remained largely unchanged. The MEU is an expeditionary intervention force with the ability to move quickly on short notice, to wherever needed to accomplish conventional or special operations. The strength of the MEU (Special Operations Capable) resides in the inherent combined arms capability while operating from forward-deployed amphibious shipping.

In order to accomplish this mission, the MEU's continually train to maintain the required combat readiness, while simultaneously fulfilling worldwide training and contingency commitments. The 11th MEU has completed several major deployments to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf. It has participated in numerous training exercises/operations from the coast of California to the shores of Somalia, and as far inland as Bujumbura, Burundi, in Central Africa.

During its 1998 deployment, the 11th MEU conducted Operation Safe Departure. This was a Noncombatant Evacuation Operation, which took place in Asmara, Eritrea, on June 6, 1998. The evacuation of noncombatant civilians and third-world nationals was conducted as a precautionary measure to ensure their safety in the midst of a heated border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia. All total, 172 persons, to include 105 Americans, were safely evacuated to Amman, Jordan, via KC-130 aerial transport.

During its 1999 deployment, the 11th MEU supported Operation Stabilise in East Timor from Oct. 25, 1999 - Nov. 27, 1999. The MEU was called on to provide support to International Forces, East Timor (INTERFET) delivering more than 1.5 million pounds of food and supplies to the Australian-led peacekeeping forces and East Timorese. The Marines and sailors of 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) returned home 20 December 1999 after having sailed more than 33,000 miles and visited eight countries during their six-month deployment aboard the three ships of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group. During the deployment, 11th MEU(SOC) visited South Korea, Singapore and Thailand on its way to the Arabian Gulf region.

The MEU departed San Diego June 21, making its first stop in Hawaii one week later. It conducted sustainment training at various military training areas before the Peleliu and Ogden moved on to Pohang, South Korea, and the Rushmore continued to Sasebo, Japan. In Pohang and Sasebo, Marines and sailors enjoyed some time off at their first liberty port of the deployment. Soon after the port visit in Pohang, 11th MEU Marines and sailors went on to train in the jungles of Singapore but were also allotted time to explore the island-nation while on liberty. The tropical setting of Phuket, Thailand, served as the MEU's final liberty port before sailing into the scorching temperatures of the Arabian Gulf.

The heat index peaked at 140 degrees during the MEU's stay in the Arabian Gulf. The unit conducted two major exercises in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula and modified its training schedule to combat the heat.

Training in the Arabian Gulf region was interrupted when the MEU was called upon to sail to East Timor to provide support to the Australian-led peacekeeping force there. This real-world operation demonstrated the MEU's versatility and ability to quickly respond to an emerging crisis. The MEU wrapped up a bilateral training exercise on the Arabian Peninsula, and the elements aboard the USS Peleliu arrived off the coast of East Timor within two weeks of receiving this new mission.

The MEU, along 14 other international forces, deployed to the former Indonesian province in response to a bloody three-week rampage by militia. A territorial vote for independence Aug. 30 sparked violence in the territory. Thousands of people were forced to seek refuge in surrounding mountains and neighboring West Timor, Indonesia and Australia. The MEU was called upon for its heavy-lift CH-53E "Super Stallion" helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced). The aircraft are capable of lifting up to 36,000 pounds and were used to deliver supplies to relief agencies and International Forces in East Timor. By the end of the operation, the MEU had airlifted more than 1.5 million pounds of food, supplies and equipment in support of the operation.

The MEU's involvement in East Timor altered the ship's planned liberty schedule for the last part of the deployment. While Marines and sailors aboard Peleliu sailed to East Timor, the USS Rushmore and USS Ogden followed the remainder of the original deployment schedule that included port calls in Singapore, Guam and Australia. The Marines and sailors of the Peleliu were finally able to enjoy some time off when the ship pulled into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 9. Almost eighty days had passed since their last liberty port in Bahrain. The other two ships of the ARG rejoined Peleliu before leaving Hawaii and sailing to California. After a successful six-month deployment, the Marines and sailors of 11th MEU (SOC) are pleased to be returning home in time for the holidays.

Marines from 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Sailors assigned to the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group practiced heightened security measures 24-26 January 2001 in preparation for their six-month Deployment 01-1 to the Pacific and Arabian Gulf Regions. The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit received its Special Operations Capable certification 16 February 2001. The Special Operations Capable Exercise, held Jan 29-Feb 8, was a test every element of 11th MEU and USS Boxer Amphibious Ready Group spent months preparing for.

The Marines and Sailors of 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) returned home 13 September 2001 after sailing more than 45,000 miles and visiting eight countries during their six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf Regions aboard the three ships of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group.

The MEU departed Naval Station San Diego March 14 and made its first stop of the deployment in Hawaii. Here the Marines and Sailors conducted sustainment training, including live-fire, flying, and patrolling. After Hawaii, the MEU moved into high gear conducting real-world humanitarian operations in East Timor.

In concert with the U.S. government's ongoing commitment to East Timor, 11th MEU(SOC)/Boxer ARG deployed more than 500 Marines and Sailors daily April 9-11, from the USS Boxer (LHD-4), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) and USS Cleveland (LPD-7) to several locations in East Timor to conduct medical and dental assistance, air and sea lift of humanitarian supplies, and assistance in community relations projects around the island. Marines and Sailors from 11th MEU(SOC) and the Boxer ARG safely and professionally performed three days of humanitarian assistance operations in the developing country of East Timor. Everyone from those who went ashore, to those remaining behind on the amphibious ships, played a vital and important role which has enriched our lives and brought many smiles of thanks to the impoverished people of East Timor.

After successfully completing humanitarian missions in East Timor, the MEU headed for Singapore and Thailand. The MEU took advantage of the Singaporean military's training areas and conducted familiarization training before heading to Thailand for liberty. The MEU/Boxer ARG then made its journey across the Indian Ocean and into the sweltering temperatures of the Arabian Gulf. The MEU made port visits to Bahrain and United Arab Emirates before launching its first major exercise, Eager Mace in Kuwait.

The MEU had a dual role while operating in Kuwait -- to enhance relations with the Kuwaitis as well as sustain combat skills. The exercise was also a chance to demonstrate the MEU's capabilities. During training ashore, Marines conducted live-fire training at Udari Range, Military Operations in Urban Terrain training at Falayka Island, raids on Bubiyan Island, and an evacuation exercise at the International Broadcast Bureau Compound in Kuwait. In turn, aircrews and pilots from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 (reinforced), the 11th MEU's Aviation Combat Element operated throughout Kuwait from Ali Al Salem Air Base.

The MEU wrapped up training in Kuwait with a final combined arms exercise, integrating Kuwaiti forces with the MEU. After Eager Mace, the MEU sailed into the Red Sea and kicked off its next exercise, Red Reef 12, on the Southwestern shore of Saudi Arabia 7-16 June 2001. Here the temperatures crept well past 100 degrees while the Marines and Sailors continued to hone their combat skills in the Saudi desert. In order to sustain them, MSSG-11 Marines transformed saltwater from the Red Sea, into 6,000 gallons of purified water per day, supplying drinking water and limited showers for more than 750 Marines and Sailors operating ashore over the nine-day period.

After Exercise Red Reef 12, the MEU returned to the ships of the Boxer ARG and sailed north toward Jordan to begin what would have been its final planned exercise of the deployment. After unloading much of its equipment and Marines, an increased threat level halted training in Jordan and forced the Marines and Sailors to return to the ships.

From Jordan, the 11th MEU(SOC)/Boxer ARG sailed back into the Arabian Gulf and made port visits to Bahrain and UAE. The Marines and Sailors were able to enjoy a few days of liberty and celebrated the 4th of July aboard ship. Aboard the USS Boxer, Marines from Battalion Landing Team 2/1 put on a live-fire display using tracer ammunition and flares. To ensure everyone was in a festive mood, the ship served up hamburgers and steaks on the flight deck and a movie was shown in the evening.

Midway through the month of July, the MEU and Boxer ARG sailed out of the Arabian Gulf and headed back toward Thailand. The Marines and Sailors enjoyed liberty in Phuket for a second time during the deployment before continuing eastward to Guam. There, the MEU conducted a final agricultural wash down of all its vehicles and equipment. The agricultural wash down was conducted to satisfy and meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service guidelines. All military units deployed outside of the Continental United States must meet the requirements before returning to the United States. These guidelines required the removal of all organic debris from vehicles and equipment before returning to the United States from foreign countries.

The MEU then sailed to Oahu, Hawaii where Marines and Sailors enjoyed the final liberty port before returning home. About 500 friends and family members embarked aboard the ships in Hawaii as part of the "Tiger Cruise" program. The Navy authorizes Marines and Sailors to invite guests to live aboard the ship during the final transit from Hawaii to California allowing them to share the experience of deployed life. Arriving off the coast of Camp Pendleton 12 September 2001, the MEU began to offload personnel and equipment in preparation for the main body's offload the next day. Early on Sept. 13, Marines and Sailors headed for shore aboard helicopters, Air Cushioned Landing Craft, and Utility Landing Craft. By the end of the day, all equipment and personnel were ashore and the 11th MEU(SOC) completed its deployment.

Unit awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with three stars awarded for participation in Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for participation in Joint Task Force Provide Relief, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, two Marine Corps Expeditionary Medals for Operations Distant Runner and Safe Departure, and two Meritorious Unit Commendations -- one for participation in Operations Restore Hope/Continue Hope and the other for participation in Exercise Kernel Potlach 87-1, and the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation awarded for search and rescue missions of two civilian jet skiers on 14 and 15 May 1999 during a Special Operations Capable Exercise.

WESTPAC 02-2

The 11th MEU departed San Diego on June 15, 2002, on board the Belleu Wood ARG, for its WESTPAC 2002 deployment. The ARG reached Hawaii on June 21 and stayed there until the 25th. From that point the MEU and ARG headed towards Singapore where it made a port of call on July 19 through July 23.

From Singapore the 11th MEU and Belleu Wood ARG headed for the CENTCOM AOR, transited the Suez Canal, and participated in Infinite Moonlight '02 in Jordan, which began on 12 August 2002 and was completed in early September.

Following the exercises in Jordan, the MEU and ARG transited the Suez and Operated in the Arabian Gulf region. In late September elements of the 11th MEU arrived in Kuwait for Eager Mace '03 and is scheduled to last roughly one month. Other elements of the 11th MEU, particularly those on board the Belleau Wood continued to operate in the Arabian Gulf in support of operations near or in Yemen.

WESTPAC 04

The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned April 28, 2004 from its second period at sea with its "Special Operations Capable" certification, a month ahead of schedule.

The at-sea periods, part of the MEU's regular workup cycle in preparation for their upcoming deployment, are usually divided into three different exercises. They start with the Expeditionary Strike Group Exercise -- the crawling stage -- then the Composite Training Underway Exercise - walking stage - culminating with the Special Operations Capable Exercise - the running stage when the MEU is tested by I Marine Expeditionary Force's Tactical Exercise Control Group in it's ability to conduct the 23 missions required of a "Special Operations Capable" MEU.

However, after ESGEX, the MEU was already moving at a brisk pace. Thus, the MEU underwent its SOC qualification during COMPTUEX, nearly a month early.



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