11th MEU SOC qualifies a month early

27 Nov 2007 | Cpl. Matthew S. Richards 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned Wednesday from its second period at sea with its “Special Operations Capable” certification, a month ahead of schedule.

The at-sea periods, part of the MEU’s regular workup cycle in preparation for their upcoming deployment, are usually divided into three different exercises.  They start with the Expeditionary Strike Group Exercise -- the crawling stage -- then the Composite Training Underway Exercise – walking stage – culminating with the Special Operations Capable Exercise – the running stage when the MEU is tested by I Marine Expeditionary Force’s Tactical Exercise Control Group in it’s ability to conduct the 23 missions required of a “Special Operations Capable” MEU.

However, after ESGEX, the MEU was already moving at a brisk pace.  Thus, the MEU underwent its SOC qualification during COMPTUEX, nearly a month early.

“Due to potential modifications in the deployment schedule, the decision was made to conduct the SOC certification during the second at sea period,” said Lt. Col. Eugene N. Apicella, 11th MEU’s executive officer.

Apicella also attributed the early SOC qualification to the unit’s “advance level of readiness.”

The exercise consisted of several amphibious destructive raids – including a live-fire long-range helicopter raid with close air support, an embassy reinforcement, a noncombatant evacuation operation, a humanitarian assistance operation, a non-compliant ship takedown, and several other missions unique to a MEU. 

“Units are not normally ready to take on that challenge,” Apicella said about being evaluated during COMPTUEX nearly a month before the scheduled SOCEX.

Lieutenant Col. Brian Gorski, a TECG evaluator, spoke nothing but praise for the MEU’s ability to perform during the unexpected challenge.

“Basically for these guys to react as they did was super,” he said. “They did not falter under pressure.”

Apicella also commended the unit’s performance.

“It’s a tribute to the hard work of the Marines and sailors to be able to do this as early as they did,” he said. “There’s no doubt, any unit that can be ready to conduct a SOC certification a good month before they are slated too can take great pride in their accomplishment.”

One Marine also attributed the unit’s performance to previous real world experience.

“We have a lot of veterans from Iraq in our company,” said Cpl. Tommy M. Aguero, radio operator for Company C., Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th MEU. “So everything went really well, we’re just locked on like that.”

The MEU’s commanding officer, Col. Anthony M. Haslam, is certain the MEU will continue to perform at this level even during deployment.

“The Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU gave a 110% effort during this intense, rigorous workup cycle.  We pushed the envelope and trained to the highest caliber, and the hard work paid off,” Haslam said.  “I am fully confident in the MEU's ability to meet any mission we're tasked with.  We're ready to go.”

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
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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
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Sergeant Major DeBarr 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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