11th MEU earns Special Operations Capable certification

15 Jun 2007 | SSgt. Donald Preston 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit received its Special Operations Capable certification Feb. 16. The Special Operations Capable Exercise, held Jan 29-Feb 8, was a test every element of 11th MEU and USS Boxer Amphibious Ready Group spent months preparing for. The SOC certification certifies that 11th MEU(SOC) is thoroughly trained and prepared to carry out the 23 MEU(SOC) capabilities ranging from humanitarian assistance to traditional amphibious assaults and maritime special operations."SOCEX is training and evaluation. Its end state is the recommendation by the senior evaluator to the I Marine Expeditionary Force commander as to the capability of 11th MEU and its readiness to be certified as Special Operations Capable," said LtCol. Alvah Ingersoll III, Operations Officer, 11th MEU(SOC). "The work-up period for SOCEX is extremely demanding on every element of the Marine Air Ground Task Force."The work-up period officially began August 21, 2000 with introduction to the Rapid Response Planning Process (R2P2). This planning process provides a basis for how the 11th MEU formulates their war plans in a highly detailed and timely manner. The planning process was used and refined during the follow-on exercises and is the key to meeting the demands of possible short-fused, real-world contingencies."The R2P2 Standard Operating Procedure, which served the MEU in SOCEX, underwent several revisions and was the key to building a cohesive planning team," Ingersoll said. Planning and conducting simultaneous missions, separated by hundreds of miles, can only be accomplished by skilled professionals.Other work-up training events included both land and sea-based Training in Urban Environments and two other at-sea periods. Exercises took place as far north as San Jose, Calif. and as far south as the desolate desert areas surrounding Yuma, Ariz. Eleventh MEU conducted these exercises based from ships dozens of miles off shore with the help of the Forward Command Element. During SOCEX the task organized FCE, a team of Marines from the 11th MEU, was inserted to act as a liaison with the local ambassador to help get troops on the ground and coordinate possible host nation support. "The FCE is a critical link between the MEU and the Ambassador," said Capt Brian S. Gilden, FCE operations officer. "It was our job to convey the MEU commander's intent and build rapport with the embassy team. They have direct knowledge of the local conditions and can steer the MEU away from potential harm or danger."Challenges associated with SOCEX were varied, and tested the 11th MEU as a unit and individually. "The Marines and Sailors of 11th MEU approached every mission with mental and physical toughness and the desire to achieve near perfect outcome," Ingersoll said. "It was not always pretty. There were at times, confusion, resource allocation concerns, and asset availability trade-offs to be made. But in the end the Marines and Sailors accomplished the mission and safely returned to ARG shipping."From the staff planners to the rifleman on the ground, 11th MEU worked together for a common cause. "Training and certification prepared each of us for the challenges ahead," Ingersoll said. "It helped build a common bond between more than 2,200 individuals who now share a common vision and understanding of what is expected of each."While the 11th MEU has successfully made the grade in earning its SOC certification it must now focus its effort toward the future. "The 11th MEU and Boxer ARG have worked together extremely well," said BGen. James R. Battagalini, deputy commanding general, I MEF. "Just remember that the true test is not the SOC certification, it's the deployment."-30-

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