11th MEU departs early to reinforce troops in Iraq

27 May 2004 | Cpl. Matthew S. Richards 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

ABOARD THE USS BELLEAU WOOD -- The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) departed May 27 from 32nd Street Naval Station San Diego nearly a month earlier than the scheduled deployment in response to a request from U.S. Central Command for more forces in Iraq.

Before this request, the MEU was scheduled to conduct a typical MEU deployment, serving as a crisis response unit in the U.S. Central and Pacific Commands areas of operation -- a mission for which MEUs are renowned. Now that 11th MEU Marines know they are headed for Iraq in support of stability and security operations, they have no doubt they are ready for the task.

"The Marines and sailors of the MEU are really positive. More than 50 percent of them are returning varsity so they've been there before," said Col. A.M. Haslam, commanding officer, 11th MEU.

The veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom say they feel more secure going back this second time.

"We're definitely more confident now than before," said Pfc. Cody D. Finch, a mortarman with Weapons Platoon, Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. "Everyone's already used to it and knows what they're expected to do."

Although the MEU departed early, that didn't prevent them from finishing their normal training period. In the shortened cycle -- 4 1/2 months vice 6 months -- the MEU obtained their SOC qualification, a feat that shows their readiness and confidence.

Haslam feels this adaptation will help them in the myriad of possible missions they could face.

"What's great about the MEU (SOC) cycle is that we are trained to rapidly plan and execute missions, and to work in a fluid environment where things are constantly changing. It's important to be able to adapt and quickly change your plan," Haslam said. "While the details of our mission are currently being refined, we'll be ready to go. We'll make it happen."

The MEU began their scheduled training in January, practicing for a normal deployment to the Western Pacific and Middle East regions with the Belleau Wood Expeditionary Strike Group. Now with a known mission and location, the MEU tailored their equipment to meet new needs.

The MEU has brought enough High Mobility Multi-wheeled Vehicles and Motor Transportation Vehicle Replacement 7-ton trucks to support the BLT on the ground. All these vehicles have been outfitted with extra armor as well.

But even with all the preparations and confidence of the individual Marines, that doesn't stop the loved ones left behind from worrying.

"I don't want him to go, I'm going to pray for him every moment," said Vivian Lee, 23-year-old fiancee of a departing BLT Marine. "But I know what he has to go do."

The Marines of the 11th MEU are confident in their experience and training to get the job done.

"The deployment will be easier this time because you know from experience what you and everyone around you can do," Finch said with a calm assuredness.

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
Commanding Officer

Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
Executive Officer

LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarrĀ enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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