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22nd MEU obtains operational control of its combat forces

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 200559165823
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (May 6, 2005) -- The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) made its first major step in preparing for its upcoming deployment today when it obtained operational control of the units with which it is scheduled to deploy later this year.

"This MEU is excited about coming together. We ready to begin training to deploy forward to assist in the Global War on Terrorism," said Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the MEU's commanding officer.

Deploying with the MEU will be its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22.

Beginning later this month, the MEU will begin an exhaustive pre-deployment training program sponsored by the II Marine Expeditionary Force's (MEF) Special Operations Training Group (SOTG). This training will include courses in helicopter, motorized, and mechanized combat operations, the tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, close quarters battle, and mass casualty scenarios, among others. SOTG will evaluate the MEU's progress during a series of exercises that will culminate in a Special Operations Capable Certification Exercise (CERTEX).

McKenzie, a 1979 Citadel graduate, assumed command of the 22nd MEU in October 2002 and led the unit during its 2004 deployment that included an extended combat tour in Afghanistan.

Many of the 22nd MEU Command Element's Marines and Sailors who deployed with the unit in 2004 have since left the unit, but enough remain to provide continuity for the upcoming deployment. In addition to its staff sections, the Command Element also consists of the MEU's Force Reconnaissance platoon, counter- and signals intelligence specialists, and a Public Affairs and Combat Camera detachment.

Since its activation on Dec. 12, 1982, the 22d MEU has seen operational service in Grenada, Beirut, Liberia, the Balkans, Zaire, Congo, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Albania, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and other far-flung locales.

The MEU's ground combat element is the 1st Bn., 2nd Marine Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Andrew H. Smith. The battalion's complement of three rifle, a weapons, and headquarters company is reinforced with detachments of assault amphibian vehicles, M1A1 main battle tanks, light armored vehicles, combat engineers, and an artillery battery. Collectively, the reinforced battalion is referred to as a Battalion Landing Team (BLT).

Providing the MEU with its air arm is Marine Medium Helicopter 261 (HMM-261), currently commanded by Lt. Col. John R. Parker. Like BLT 1/2, HMM-261 is fresh from a tour in Iraq. Augments from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) will bolster the squadron's organic complement of CH-46E Sea Knights assault helicopters, and includes CH-53E Super Stallion, AH-1W Super Cobra, and UH-1N Huey helicopters, as well as AV-8B Harrier II attack jets and myriad ground support detachments.

Lt. Col. Charles G. Chiarotti commands MEU Service Support Group 22 (MSSG-22), the MEU's combat service support element. MSSG-22 has deployed alongside the 22nd MEU for nearly 20 years, and its personnel and detachments are drawn from throughout the 2nd Force Service Support Group (FSSG). MSSG-22 is responsible for providing maintenance, landing support, supply, military police, health services, motor transport, and a host of other specialized support to the rest of the MEU.

The 22nd MEU will embark aboard the amphibious ships USS NASSAU, CARTER HALL, and AUSTIN for its deployment. As part of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 8, the MEU will also deploy alongside a small flotilla of Navy combatants including a cruiser, two destroyers, and an attack submarine, all with permanent support from P3C Orion surveillance aircraft. Collectively, the unit will be referred to as the NASSAU Expeditionary Strike Group.

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