ABOARD THE USS PELELIU -- The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) departed Feb. 15 aboard the USS Peleliu from the 32nd Street Naval Station, San Diego, on their way to a six-month deployment throughout the Pacific Ocean and the Persian Gulf.
The 11th MEU is a rapid-response force capable of conducting special operations during peacetime and crisis situations. Typically during a six-month deployment, the 11th MEU will conduct a myriad of training and if necessary, real-world exercises and operations, including noncombatant evacuations and humanitarian assistance missions.
According to Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, the 11th MEU does not yet know what missions it will face. "It all depends on world events," said Sattler. When speaking to Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU's command element a day prior to their deployment, Sattler wished them well and told the Marines and sailors he was confident in their abilities to succeed at any mission if tasked.
During the final moments before leaving, some Marines and sailors hugged and kissed their teary-eyed children and spouses. Others held their girlfriends tight or hugged their parents, who had come to see them off on that cold and overcast day.
This is one of the toughest experiences that Marine families can go through, said Gunnery Sgt. Jose Coronado, mess chief, command element. "I've deployed more than five times an I still can't get used to it. But this is something we have to do. This is our job."
Emotions ran high as many families saw their Marines and sailors settle into what will be their new home for the next six months. The families were welcomed inside the amphibious ship and were given tours by their Marine or sailor. Inside the hangar bay, children ran in circles around CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters, while newlywed couples shared one last embrace. Nearby, a mother's tears became contagious to her family of seven and even made unrelated Marines nearby teary eyed.
"I don't want him to go," said Ellen Cahill about her son Cpl. Brian Cahill, MEU Service support Group 11 military police. "But I trust him and I know that God will watch over him."