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22nd MEU prepare to support relief operations

US Marine Corps News

By Cpl. Bobbie A. Curtis, 22nd MEU

Before the sun crested the horizon the morning of Jan. 17, 2010, Marines and sailors of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit were wide awake, preparing for their upcoming mission – providing humanitarian assistance to the earthquake stricken country of Haiti.

The earthquake struck the night of Jan. 12, 2010, leaving Haiti’s largest city, Port Au Prince, in ruin. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, tens of thousands of Haiti’s citizens have been rendered homeless.

The 22nd MEU is already well prepared to react to the devastating earthquake, having just returned from a deployment to U.S. European and Central commands. In fact, during the unit’s pre-deployment training, the MEU conducted several training evolutions including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief scenarios.

The 22nd MEU’s past training exercises prepared the unit for security, supply drops and distribution operations and any other number of missions the unit may be tasked to support, said Capt. James W. Birchfield, the company commander for Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

The unit is capable of conducting numerous missions including mass casualty evacuations, medical care, supply distribution, recovery and reconstruction, along with a range of security operations. Using its amphibious, logistical and air capabilities, the MEU can provide quick and responsive assistance to the country.

As the Bataan steamed toward its destination, 22nd MEU personnel and ship’s company began to stage food, water and other essential supplies around the ship for distribution at a moment’s notice to Haitian citizens.

“This is going to be a new one for us, but a lot of the MEU work-ups had a lot of exercises built into it,” Birchfield continued. “I think we are prepared as can be.”

Marines from the 22nd MEU, spent the day rehearsing a number of drills to prepare for their arrival in country.

The infantrymen practiced security techniques with the ability to create a calm environment in which Marines can safely and efficiently conduct humanitarian assistance operations. Birchfield said good security not only protects Marines and sailors, but provides a safe environment for those affected by a disaster to receive assistance.

“I see my company as providing security and maintaining order so nobody gets hurt and everybody gets the [supplies] they need,” the Montgomery, Ala. native explained.

By Jan. 18, the third day of the 22nd MEU’s voyage, key leaders began flying over Haiti in helicopters to further assess the situation as to plan the best way to bring relief to Haitian shores. Just as the sun began to set on the ship, Marines and ship’s company looked over the horizon and finally laid eyes on their destination.

The 22nd MEU is embarked aboard the ships of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group near the island of Haiti to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the wake of a devastating earthquake that rocked the country Jan. 12, 2010. The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its command element.

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