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24th Marine Expeditionary Unit / 24 MEU (SOC)
[Landing Force Sixth Fleet (LF6F)]

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is one of three Marine Air/Ground Logistics Task Forces which routinely deploys from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to the Mediterranean Sea aboard amphibious ready group shipping. The MEU prepares for deployments by participating in a three-phased pre-deployment training program (PTP). The training program culminates with a certification exercise to validate the MEU' s operational readiness and special operations capability. During training, the MEU is under the operational control of the II Marine Expeditionary Force Commanding General. When embarked aboard ARG shipping, the fleet commander exercises operational control of the MEU.

The 24th MEU's Command Element (CE) serves as the Headquarters for command and control of the Ground Combat Element (GCE), Aviation Combat Element (ACE), and MEU Service Support Group (MSSG). The CE also consists of detachments from Radio Battalion, Reconnaissance, Counter Intelligence, Interrogator Translator Team, Topographical and Force Imagery Interpretation Units, as well as standard staff sections.

History

During the 1960' s and 1970' s, the current 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit was activated at various times as the 34th Marine Amphibious Unit and participated in exercises and operations in the north Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas. In 1982, it was redesignated the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit and served twice as part of the multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon. It continued to make routine deployments to the Mediterranean during the next six years while also providing forces for operations in the Arabian Gulf.

The Marine Amphibious Unit was redesignated as a Marine Expeditionary Unit in February 1988. Following Operation Desert Storm, the 24 th MEU was tasked with the humanitarian relief effort, "Operation Provide Comfort," in support of the Kurdish people in Turkey and Northern Iraq. In 1993, the 24 th MEU took part in Operations "Restore Hope" and "Continue Hope" providing humanitarian aid to many remote areas of Somalia in the form of food, water and medicine. From May to June 1994, it served in support of Operations "Provide Promise" and "Deny Flight" in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Two weeks after returning from that deployment, the 24 th MEU redeployed to the waters off the coast of Haiti where it served during July and August as part of Operation "Support Democracy".

In June 1995, elements of the 24th MEU launched a daring mission from the Adriatic Sea to rescue Air Force Capt. Scott O'Grady, who had been shot down over Bosnia-Herzegovina six days earlier. In 1996, the MEU served as a contingency force in the Adriatic Sea in support of Operation "Decisive Endeavor." Near the end of October, units from the MEU assisted U.S. Army and allied engineers with the construction of a bridge across the Drina River in Bosnia. During 1998 the MEU was diverted from its regular deployment schedule to provide a forward presence in the Arabian Gulf as the U.S. Fifth Fleet landing force in support of Operation "Desert Thunder." In addition to using its aviation assets to enforce the Iraqi no-fly zone - Operation "Southern Watch".

During November and December 1998, Marines from the 24 th MEU were called upon to provide security for the American embassy in Tirana, Albania. In March, the MEU conducted 34 battlefield air interdiction missions as part of the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia, attacking with its AV-8B Harriers from the Adriatic Sea. Throughout the air campaign, the MEU was poised in the Aegean and Adriatic Seas to support Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) missions in support of Operation "Allied Force" had U.S. or NATO aircrews required assistance. While in the Aegean, the MEU also participated in humanitarian assistance efforts in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to assist Kosovar refugees with food, water, shelter and medical aid.

LF6F 2-00 deployment

On 13 August 2000, after nearly half a year away from home, the Marines and Sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) returned to Camp Lejeune. Since their deployment with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group on 18 February 2000, the 24th MEU(SOC)'s Marines and Sailors set foot in nine countries around the Mediterranean and Black Seas, and participated in five major exercises with more than a dozen NATO allies and Partnership for Peace nations. They were embarked on USS Wasp, USS Oak Hill and USS Trenton.

The GCE for the LF6F 2-00 deployment was Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/6, consisting of an infantry battalion, reinforced by artillery , combat engineers, assault amphibian vehicles, light armored vehicles, main battle tanks, reconnaissance personnel and communicators. Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 (REIN) was the ACE of the 24th MEU and was a reinforced squadron consisting of heavy, medium, light and attack helicopters, AV -8B "Harrier" jets and KC-130 fixed-wing aerial refuleing aircraft. MEU Service Support Group 24 (MSSG-24) is the CSSE of the MEU and is structured to provide landing support and supply , maintenance, engineer , military police, medical and dental and motor transport support.

Beginning with their assumption of responsibility Landing Force Sixth Fleet on March 2 at the gateway to the Mediterranean, Rota, Spain, the first task for the 24th MEU was to make its way to Lisbon, Portugal, to participate in a State Department reception for Secretary of State Madelein Albright and Portuguese dignitaries aboard the USS Wasp. After spending three days filled with reception activities and shipboard tours for locals, the MEU moved on to its first scheduled military event - Spanish PHIBLEX - a combined amphibious exercise in Sierra del Retin, Spain. The five-day exercise gave the American and Spanish Marines a chance to work alongside each other learning and exchanging tactics and technical skills in the coastal area's rugged terrain and windy, wet weather.

After PHIBLEX, the MEU quickly transited the Mediterranean to begin their next exercise - Dynamic Response 2000. This exercise was the first deployment of the Strategic Reserve Force into Kosovo, spearheaded by the 24th MEU(SOC). After conducting an amphibious landing in the vicinity of Thessaloniki, Greece, the Marines and Sailors traveled across Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to establish themselves at Camp Casablanca in Suva Reka, Kosovo.

Dynamic Response was a NATO exercise involving soldiers and Marines from the U.S., the Netherlands, Romania, Poland and Argentina. The exercise demonstrated NATO's resolve to maintain a secure environment in Kosovo for all ethnic groups while exercising the Strategic Reserve Forces' ability to rapidly reinforce the multi-national forces established throughout the country.

After Kosovo, the Marines took a break from field and ship life to see the sites in Trieste, Italy, and Marmaris, Turkey. From Turkey, the USS Wasp and USS Oak Hill made the trek back to Rota, Spain, while the USS Trenton stopped in La Maddelena, Italy, for a mid-deployment maintenance stand down to prepare MEU vehicles and equipment for the next big tactical exercise - the two-part NATO Exercise Dynamic Mix in Capo Teulada, Sardinia, and Kyparissia, Greece. Before heading to the island of Sardinia, however, the MEU stopped in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, for four days to rest and relax before climbing back into the saddle for the first phase of Dynamic Mix on May 20.

The first week of Dynamic Mix consisted of cross training and familiarization between the Marines, French Foreign Legionnaires, Turkish, Spanish and Greek soldiers. Sardinia offered live-fire ground and aerial gunnery ranges for all types of weaponry - from small arms to tanks - while also offering areas for the troops to maneuver and communicate. After the familiarization phase, the American and Greek ships moved south and east around the boot of Italy to conduct a combined amphibious assault in Greece. This was the first time Turkish troops, task organized with Battalion Landing Team 2/6, had set foot in Greece in more than 40 years. As NATO allies today, Turkey's participation in this exercise on Greek soil was a first step toward greater international cooperation. Throughout the entire exercise, 24th MEU(SOC) Commanding Officer Col. Rick Tryon was charged with leading the 3,300-member multi-national force as the Commander Combined Landing Force.

From Greece, the MEU/ARG conducted split operations sending the USS Trenton into the Black Sea for the NATO-sponsored Partnership for Peace Exercise Cooperative Partner in Odessa, Ukraine, from June 19 to July 1. Along the way, the USS Trenton visited Mykonos, Greece, and enjoyed the uniqueness of liberty in the Black Sea.

While the Marines aboard the Trenton were participating in Cooperative Partner, the main body of the MEU and ARG made a stop in Toulon, France, and from there headed to the eastern end of the Mediterranean to Israel for their final exercise - Noble Shirley. The training in the southern Negev Desert region of Israel, near the Egyptian border, challenged the Marines with daily 100+ degree temperatures and hostile terrain. In spite of the inhospitable environment, the Marines performed their maneuvers without incident and for some with a feeling of dj vu since most Marines felt the training and conditions reminded them of Combined Arms Exercises at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, 29 Palms, Calif.

From the port of Haifa, Israel, the USS Wasp, USS Oak Hill and USS Trenton spent six days steaming back to Rota for the MEU's final vehicle and equipment wash down, inspections by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors and the turnover with their relief - the Saipan ARG and 26th MEU(SOC).

LF6F 2-01 deployment

By mid-February 2001 Marines and Sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU) completed their Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise (MEUEX). The next and final evolution of training includes three exercises over a three-week period, culminating with Special Operations Capable Exercise (SOCEX).

Elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) (MEU-SOC) returned to their home bases on 13 October 2001, completing a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean region as Landing Force Sixth Fleet. While deployed to the Mediterranean, the MEU-SOC participated in peace support operations in Kosovo, conducted six multinational exercises and two land-based aviation exercises, and visited over 30 ports.

LF6F 2-02

After activating on January 27, 2002 and completing a rigorous Predeployment Training Program, the 24th MEU set sail from Camp Lejeune on a routine six-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea as the Landing Force for U.S. Sixth Fleet. The 24th MEU departed with the Nassau ARG in August 2002.

After attaining the SOC designation in July, Marines and Sailors of the MEU enjoyed a leave period to relax with their families, and make final preparations for their deployment.

After being extended twice and participating in exercises and operations in places ranging from the snow-capped mountains of Kosovo, the jungles of Kenya and the deserts of East Africa and Iraq, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) finally returned home to North Carolina Memorial Day May 26, 2003 wrapping up a nine-month deployment that will surely be talked about for years to come

The first thing up for the MEU after crossing the Atlantic was Operation Dynamic Response 2002 in Kosovo. During this operation, the 24th MEU teamed up with soldiers from the German Army to work in the Multi-National Brigade South Area of Operations.

During their time there, the MEU conducted border patrols apprehending more than 30 suspects. They also worked with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo Police Department patrolling some of the towns in the area. But besides patrolling, the MEU also conducted several civil affairs projects there, including providing medical and dental care for villages in the southern region of Kosovo. The MEU also used its Aviation Combat Element and Combat Service Support Element to install sections of pipe into a mountainside that allowed a local village to have running water for the first time ever.

Some other highlights from Kosovo include a sporting competition featuring the Americans and Germans who challenged each other to a soccer match and basketball game. The MEU was victorious in both. Marines from the MSSG also competed against Swiss counterparts in shooting competition. They were also victorious.

At the same time the MEU was in Kosovo, Marines from the MEU's Harrier Detachment participated in a "Dirt Det" in Rota, Spain and Decimomannu, Italy training with their Spanish and Italian counterparts.

After wrapping up operations in Kosovo in October, the MEU headed back the ships of the USS Nassau Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and immediately made their way through the Suez Canal into the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility. They would remain there the duration of the deployment.

First up for the MEU in their new AOR was exercise Image Nautilus 2003 in Djibouti. During this exercise the MEU honed its combined-arms capabilities by conducting many day and night live-fire exercises. The MEU also conducted another civil affairs project in which the Marines built furniture for a local schoolhouse and provided medical and dental care for some of the local residents. This time in Djibouti also afforded the Marines the opportunity to get acclimated to the harsh desert environment, which they would grow accustomed to by the end of the deployment.

Following their exercise in the Djibouti, the MEU conducted a Split ARG Operation in the month of December, with the USS Austin separating and heading to Kenya, where the MEU conducted Exercise Edged Mallet 2003.

Edged Mallet 2003 was a combined exercise in which soldiers from the Kenyan Army cross-trained with Marines from Golf Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Bn. 2nd Marines. Some of the highlights include live-fire shoots in which the two countries got the fire each other's weapons and a combined airfield seizure that solidified the relationship built between the two countrie's forces.

Marines from MEU Service Support Group 24 also conducted humanitarian assistance operations for local residents.

Following their work in Kenya, the USS Austin rejoined the USS Nassau and USS Tortuga in preparation for their next event.

During this time, Marines aboard the USS Tortuga and USS Austin took a few days off to enjoy some liberty in the Seychelles while the USS Nassau spent a few days in Bahrain.

After a few days of rest the MEU conducted another combined arms exercise, Iron Magic 2003 in Another Arabia Gulf Country. Again the MEU focused on combined arms operations conducting more day and night live-fire exercises. They also conducted a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise along with a helicopter assault course.

Following the exercise there, the MEU loaded back onto its ships and headed to Bahrain for a few more days of liberty.

The MEU then spent the rest of the month aboard ship in and around the Arabian Gulf. During this time, the Marines hosted several small unit leadership classes and conducted many live-fire shoots on the ships flight deck.

As the MEU was about to begin its journey home, the deployment was extended for a second time, this time indefinitely and they were going ashore in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

During their time in Iraq, the MEU played a significant role in securing Route 7, a major supply road running from Southern Iraq all the way to Baghdad. They also conducted vehicle checkpoints and successfully completed several raids in which the Marines captured large amounts of weapons and ammunition. Some other highlights from Iraq include the recovery of a body of a fallen Marine from Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 and the destruction of all Ba'ath Party Regime symbols in the village of Qalat Sukar.

During Iraqi Freedom the MEU'S Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 was detached from the MEU and reattached to their parent command Marine Air Group 29. During their time in Iraq the ACE provided assault support and played a key role in the movement of troops and supplies.

As Baghdad fell and the MEU wrapped up operations in its Area of Responsibility the MEU began to move back to its ships once again.

During this time, the MEU conducted its end of deployment wash down at Camp Patriot, Kuwait and began its long awaited journey home.

Heading back through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean Sea and back across the Atlantic the MEU was finally home with the satisfaction of a successful deployment that took them halfway around the world and saw them participate in numerous exercises, and several real-world operations.

In late February 2004 a senior Marine commander told members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Lejeune, NC, they might be needed to respond to the Haiti crisis. The 2,000 Marines could deploy aboard the USS Saipan and two other vessels. The Saipan is capable of carrying a variety of helicopters as well as vertical-takeoff Harrier attack aircraft. The helicopters could be useful for evacuations of embassy personnel and others, especially if conventional aircraft are unable to land at Haitian airports.

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit had just begun our Pre-deployment Training Program in preparation for an upcoming deployment. The 24th MEU assumed operational control of its ground, air and logistics elements 20 February 2004. After activating and kicking their Pre-deployment Training Program into high gear, Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepared themselves for the many types of missions they may face on their upcoming deployment overseas.

LF6F 04

Marines from all major subordinate elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed several Enhanced Nuclear, Biological and Chemical training exercises at Combat Town April 26-27, 2004. During the training, the Marines simulated receiving a call from a host country with an unknown chemical in the air. They responded by sending in teams of Marines to identify the chemical and to determine a recommended course of action for the country.

Six weeks after the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit dispatched its initial element to the Middle East, the last of the MEU's leathernecks arrived in Iraq in late July as the unit prepares to begin operations in the province of North Babil. The long journey from its home base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., took the MEU through Kuwait, where Marines and sailors trained and acclimated to the desert heat before heading north.

Within days, the MEU will assume operational control of a heavily populated area south of Baghdad that includes the cities of Mahmudiyah and Iskandariyah. As it relieves Army units being transferred elsewhere in Iraq, the 2,200-strong MEU will be beefed up with additional Marine forces, including 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines and Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. Their mission is to assist local Iraqi authorities in establishing security and stability for the nearly 900,000 citizens of the province. The most urgent priority is to empower Iraqi police and national guardsmen with the skills they need to combat enemy insurgents.

After seven months of triumph and heartache in one of the most dangerous regions in Iraq, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit is headed home. Several hundred of the MEU's 2,200 Marines and sailors will begin returning to North Carolina this weekend, signaling the end of a successful deployment that spanned one of the more turbulent and decisive junctures in the two-year-old effort to bring democracy to Iraq.

Through scores of direct-action raids, hundreds of cordon-and-knock searches, and thousands of patrols and vehicle checkpoints, the MEU gradually thinned insurgent ranks in northern Babil Province and chipped away at their supply of weapons. Working alongside Iraqi security forces, the Marines rounded up nearly 900 criminals, thugs and terrorists and seized more than 75,000 munitions.

In the end, while area militants had not yet lost their will to fight, they had lost steam. After several months of steadily growing activity, insurgent attacks fell by 20 percent in December and nearly 50 percent in January. Sunday's nationwide election ushered in the expected spike in attacks, but they were largely ineffective, causing few casualties and little damage.

The MEU's success came at a significant cost. Fifteen Marines were killed and nearly 225 wounded. Including those units that fought under the MEU's command - 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, and the 1st Battalion of Britain's Black Watch Regiment - the casualties numbered 34 killed and nearly 300 wounded.

Even as they hunted the enemy, the Marines sought to demonstrate their goodwill to the 1.2 million Iraqi citizens in the MEU's area of operations. Led by MEU Service Support Group 24, the Marines delivered water, distributed medical supplies, renovated health clinics and water-treatment plants, rebuilt bridges, restored dozens of schools, and equipped thousands of Iraqi kids with the tools they need for a decent education.

The bulk of the MEU returned to North Carolina by mid-February of 05. A handful of Marines will remain in Kuwait a couple of extra weeks before returning home at the end of the month.

LF6F 06

Approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) set sail June 6, 2006 onboard the Iwo Jima Strike Group for the European and Central Command theaters of operation, marking the MEU's return to the front lines of the Global War on Terrorism. The deployment comes on the heels of a rigorous training cycle that kicked off in November and concluded last month with the MEU earning its "Special Operations Capable" designation after the successful completion of its Certification Exercise.

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in Europe the week of June 20, completing the first leg of a deployment that will ultimately take the unit's 2,200 Marines and sailors to the front lines of the Global War on Terror. The MEU set sail from its home base at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., on June 8, and began making its way across the Atlantic Ocean. After slipping through the Strait of Gibraltar, the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea that divides Europe and Africa, the seven ships of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group immediately diverged en route to separate ports stretching from Spain to Italy.

Of the three amphibious-assault ships carrying Marines, the USS Whidbey Island landed first, pulling into Rota, Spain, on June 18. The USS Iwo Jima arrived in the French coastal city of Marseille on June 20, while the USS Nashville was due to make its first stop in Naples, Italy, a day later. Since the MEU has not yet been assigned a mission, the Marines are scheduled to enjoy several days of liberty before resuming their journey east toward the Central Command theater of operations.

As the home front celebrated Independence Day, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit drew a transcontinental step closer to possible combat operations, officially entering the Central Command theater and assuming duties as the force of choice in a regional crisis. One by one during the early morning hours of July 4, the seven vessels of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group -- including three amphibious-assault ships bearing the MEU's roughly 2,200 Marines and sailors -- slipped from the Mediterranean Sea and into the Suez Canal.

Amid growing turmoil in Lebanon, Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit assisted in the voluntary departure of the first group of U.S. citizens on July 16, 2006. Twenty-one Americans were flown from the U.S. embassy to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where Marines had staged yesterday to prepare for the operation.Two CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters, bearing a small team of Marines, took off from the British Royal Air Force Base in Akrotiri, Cyprus, just before 2 p.m. local time (7 a.m. EST).

The helicopters landed an hour later on the embassy grounds, where the initial wave of American citizens wishing to leave Lebanon had assembled.After dropping off the Marines and picking up the American citizens awaiting transportation, the helicopters lifted off and returned to Cyprus, landing at approximately 5 p.m. local time.



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