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13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (SOC)
13 MEU (SOC)
"Fighting Thirteenth"

The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) was activated at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 1, 1985 as the 13th Marine Amphibious Unit. The unit was redesignated as the 13th MEU Feb. 5, 1988. It is one of three West Coast MEUs which make periodic deployments to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf regions. Since its activation, 13th MEU has completed 11 Western Pacific deployments, participated in five amphibious training exercises, visited more than a dozen foreign countries, and conducted combat operations in support of Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and United Shield.

The "Fighting 13th MEU" has experienced a number of firsts. It was the first West Coast MEU to be designated as Special Operations Capable; having undergone extensive training in conducting a wide variety of special missions. It was the first MEU to deploy with Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC); the "Mastiff" remotely piloted vehicle; an entire section of Avenger air defense weapons systems and the first to refuel ground vehicles with the Tactical Bulk Fuels Delivery System mounted in a CH-53E. Additionally, they were the first West Coast MEU to deploy with a force reconnaissance platoon.

The 13th MEU (SOC)'s special operations capabilities were used extensively on its deployment during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Beginning a routine deployment June 20, 1990, the MEU was diverted to Southwest Asia in August 1990. The first amphibious force to arrive in the theater of operations, 13th MEU conducted the first Marine offensive actions against Iraq. In October 1990, elements of the 13th MEU (SOC) boarded two Iraqi tankers that refused to obey the United Nations sanctions.

The MEU conducted a number of operations during Desert Storm including a helicopter raid on Maradim Island, Kuwait, and amphibious operations the day the ground war started. The MEU's last combat operation in Desert Storm was an Iraqi prisoner of war roundup on Faylaka Island, Kuwait, March 3, 1991, which resulted in 1,413 Iraqi prisoners. The 13th MEU returned to the United States April 16, 1991 after being deployed 301 consecutive days.

The 13th MEU (SOC) deployed again during January 1992. During this deployment, the MEU conducted training operations in the Persian Gulf, Africa and Thailand. Additionally, the MEU was the last deploying unit to visit the Philippines prior to the closure of Naval Station, Subic Bay.

In September 1993 the 13th MEU (SOC) deployed again and completed a routine exercise in Okinawa. The MEU arrived off the coast of Somalia in early October in response to increasing hostilities there. As a key element of 10 the newly-formed COMMARFOR SOMALIA, the 13th MEU (SOC) and 22nd MEU (SOC), remained on station ready to provide support to United States and United Nations forces.

COMMARFOR SOMALIA was disestablished when the 22nd MEU (SOC) was reassigned to the Mediterranean area of operations in mid-November. The 13th MEU (SOC) remained as the principle rapid response force in support of the joint task force. The MEU developed and executed two humanitarian assistance operations. The first, Operation Show Care took place in the cities of Marka and Qoryooley from Nov. 11-14. From Dec. 1-3, 1993, Operation More Care was conducted in the Old Port of Mogadishu. Both operations provided needed medical and dental assistance to Somali citizens.

The 13th MEU (SOC) continued its presence mission through January, providing aircraft for the "Eyes Over Mogadishu" missions as well as sniper support at the United States Embassy compound. Feb. 2, 1994, the 24th MEU (SOC) relieved the 13th MEU (SOC). By March 17, 1994, the 13th MEU had returned to the United States.

The 13th MEU (SOC) began its eighth Western Pacific deployment Oct. 25, 1994, only seven months after returning to Camp Pendleton. The MEU conducted its first scheduled exercise on Okinawa, Nov. 11-13.

They then sailed to the Persian Gulf and conducted three major exercises: Eager Mace in Kuwait, Nautical Mantis in Saudi Arabia and Iron Magic in the United Arab Emirates. Each of these exercises involved extensive bilateral training with the host nation. Additionally during this period, the MEU conducted a Maritime Interdiction Operation/Visit Board Search and Seizure (MIO/VBSS) mission aboard the Honduran flagged Merchant Vessel Ajmer, which was in violation of United Nations sanctions with Iraq.

During January 1995, the 13th MEU (SOC) was ordered to conduct Operation United Shield; the withdrawal of UNOSOM forces from Somalia. The MEU sailed to Africa and conducted operational rehearsals in Kenya. Feb. 3, 1995, the MEU was in position off the coast of Somalia and began conducting initial reconnaissance of the operational area and liaison with UNOSOM forces. Early morning Feb. 28, the 13th MEU (SOC) conducted an amphibious assault onto Somali soil and began executing a relief-in-place with UNOSOM forces. By March 2, the withdrawal of all UNOSOM forces was complete, and during the first hours of March 3, the final Marine forces departed Somali soil. The 13th MEU (SOC) returned to Camp Pendleton April 24, 1995. 11

The 13th MEU(SOC) departed on its ninth Western Pacific deployment on April 19, 1996. While deployed on WESTPAC 96-2, the 13th MEU(SOC) participated in Cobra Gold '96 in Thailand and Infinite Moonlight '96 in Jordan. During MEU EX in Kuwait, the 13th MEU(SOC) became the first MEU(SOC) to put the entire landing force ashore in Kuwait without the use of a port or airfield. This was a vital step in the validation of the plan for the defense of Kuwait, which had previously not been tested.

The 13th MEU(SOC) also provided a vital forward presence when, while on the way to conduct a transit of the Straits of Hormuz out of the Arabian Gulf Sept. 1, they were put on alert as part of Operation Desert Strike. The 13th MEU(SOC) never received a mission, but their presence in the Arabian Gulf gave higher headquarters additional options. Oct. 18, 1996, the 13th MEU(SOC) arrived off the coast of Camp Pendleton to end their deployment.

The 13th MEU(SOC) left on its tenth deployment Aug. 29, 1997. During WESTPAC 98- 1, the 13th MEU(SOC) participated in Operation Southern Watch during November and December, helping enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. The 13th MEU(SOC) also participated in Eager Mace 98-1 in Kuwait before returning home Feb. 28, 1998.

The 13th MEU(SOC) deployed for the 11th time on Dec. 5, 1998. During WESTPAC 99- 1, 13th MEU conducted training in Hawaii, Singapore and Kuwait (Eager Mace 99- 1). In addition to providing reinforcements to the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, the MEU also responded to the Eritrea- Ethiopia war where the MEU(SOC) stood by poised to evacuate U.S. and other designated noncombatants. The MEU accomplished some new firsts during WESTPAC 99-1: qualifying an entire heliborne company with the HEEDS bottle and the composite squadron, HMM-364(REIN), completing 35,000 Class-A mishap-free flight hours. The MEU returned to Camp Pendleton June 4, 1999.

In August 2000, the 13th MEU(SOC) began its 12th deployment. During WESTPAC 00-2, the unit conducted training in Hawaii, Australia, Singapore, UAE and Kuwait, and liberty in Thailand and Jebel Ali. The transit to the Arabian Gulf was highlighted by a stop at Tarawa, where 13th MEU(SOC) conducted a ceremony on the same soil Marines fought on in World War II. The unit also conducted a ceremony off the waters of Guadalcanal. From Sept. 14-16, the 13th MEU SOC conducted a humanitarian assistance operation in East Timor, offloading more than 570 tons of material by aircraft and more than 430 tons via seaslift.

In October 2000, the world was shocked by the terrorist bombing of the USS Cole, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer, in the port of Aden, Yemen. 13th MEU was immediately dispatched to provide security for the battered destroyer and its crew, and assist in Operation Determined Response, the recovery of USS Cole. The 13th MEU(SOC) marked its transit home with stops in Seychelles, Thailand, Hong Kong and Iwo Jima. The unit returned to Camp Pendleton Feb. 13, 2001.

On 01 December 2001 the 2,100 Marines and sailors of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked on the Bonhomme Richard amphibious ready group, deployed more than a month early -- headed for the Afghanistan war zone. The deployment included six Harrier jets, four Cobra helicopter gunships, four CH-53 Super Stallion transport helicopters, 12 CH-46 Sea Knights and three UH-1 Hueys, along with four M1A1 Abrams tanks, a dozen light armored vehicles, and six howitzers.

The 2,200 Marines and Sailors of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) deployed a month and a half early in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, vice the scheduled mid-January 2002 departure. The 13th MEU was notified of its SOC certification Nov. 20, after completing Special Operations Capable Exercise early in the predeployment cycle and two follow-on missions Nov. 16 and 19. "The Fighting 13th" completed SOCEX and its shortened pre-deployment period in case it was called upon to leave early for its Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf deployment.

During the 13th MEU(SOC) six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf the unit participated in a humanitarian assistance operation in East Timor and in Operation Determined Response, the revovery of USS Cole, off the coast of Yemen and in Oman. The 13th MEU(SOC) finished WestPac 00-2 by extending hospitality to 289 civilian relatives and friends of MEU Marines and Sailors aboard ships of Tarawa Amphibious Ready Group. During the "Tiger Cruise," civilians receive the opportunity to fire weapons, tour the ships, eat chow, and live in the same berthing as Marines and Sailors, getting a feel for how they live during a six-month deployment. The ships host special events such as movie and bingo nights and ice cream socials for the Tigers.

The MEU, directed by a single commander, is comprised of approximately 2,100 Marines and Sailors, embarked aboard three ships along with the Marines and Sailors stationed on those ships and the Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON), which commands the three-ship Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). The 13th MEU working with PHIBRON-5 and the USS Tarawa ARG comprises one such Navy/Marine team. The 13th MEU is one of three West Coast based MEUs from Camp Pendleton, Calif. These MEUs are routinely rotated through the Western Pacific/Southwest Asia region and other areas for six months at a time.

Marines and Sailors of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed their first at-sea period during Composite Training Unit Exercise 00-2, 10-21 April 2000, aboard ships of the USS Tarawa Amphibious Ready Group. COMPTUEX was 13th MEU's first opportunity during its predeployment cycle to train for joint task force missions and real-world operations from a sea-based platform. The exercise was the fourth major training exercise working toward a special operations capable certification and a deployment to the Western Pacific in mid-August. The underway exercise also gave members of the MEU a chance to familiarize themselves with the ships and adjust to the sudden lifestyle change. In September 2000 the 13th MEU(SOC) and Tarawa ARG combined to provide a short-term, high-impact humanitarian assistance operation to East Timor, which was still struggling with the aftermath of its newly won independence. The humanitarian assistance came during the midst of 13th MEU(SOC)'s six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf. The humanitarian assistance is conducted on a rotational basis, and the 11th, 15th and 31st MEUs have previously visited the country to provide help and demonstrate U.S. resolve to continue providing help to East Timor.


Marines and Sailors of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned from their final underway exercise, Special Operations Capable Exercise (SOCEX), in August 2003. The training was conducted with the USS Peleliu, USS Ogden, USS Germantown, USS Port Royal, USS Greeneville, USS Decatur and USS Jarrett. The exercise is designed to integrate the Marines and Sailors of Battalion Landing Team 1/1, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-163, MEU Service Support Group-13 and the MEU Command Element with Sailors of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and ESG-1 in the final tests to certify the MEU Special Operations Capable.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:17:34 ZULU