MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
After nearly six months of pre-deployment training the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit recently completed their final certification exercise (CERTEX), the last step in becoming mission ready before they deploy later this year.
The intensive 12-day exercise assessed the MEUs ability to conduct a multitude of operations, many of them running concurrently. CERTEX not only tested the 11th MEU’s ground, aviation, logistics and command elements, but Navy and Marine Corps interoperability as well.
“We are now special operations capable with Special Operations Company B and we are operationally ready to deploy,” said Col. John W. Bullard, 11th MEU commanding officer.
Bullard said during the exercise, time management and resource management were some of the biggest areas tested.
“We had to demonstrate that we can properly employ all the elements and also posture for the next mission,” he said.
All elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force were employed night and day to carry out missions ranging from combat operations to evacuating non-combatants from numerous locations.
Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, the MEU’s ground combat element, stayed extremely active during the culmination exercise by conducting helicopter, vehicle and mechanized raids at numerous locations and providing security for a non-combatant evacuation (NEO) and a humanitarian assistance operation (HAO).
Lance Cpl. Terry D. Sielken, a mortarman with Weapons Company, 1st Bn., 5th Marines said, the three at-sea periods greatly improved his abilities as an individual and as a member of his unit.
“At the beginning I was very nervous being new and being around new Marines,” said the Bolingbrook, Ill. native. “Now I am a lot closer to the unit and I trust everyone. I am a lot closer to my peers and have found working together with them you accomplish a lot more.”
Combat Logistics Battalion 11 took the lead with the HAO, setting up a water purification system, medical treatment center as well as food and water distribution sites to help the local population during one of the scenarios.
Medium Marine Helicopter Squadron 166 (REIN) flew constant missions bringing Marines and Sailors ashore during the numerous missions.
Though the Marines are more than capable of accomplishing missions once they are on the ground, getting them there takes coordination with, and reliability of the Sailors aboard the Naval vessels.
Bullard said a strong “blue,” “green” relationship is critical to overall success of the MEU’s missions.
Navy personnel, from the ships that the MEU is embarked on, run the well decks and flight decks that the majority of missions originate from.
Now that the final stage of the MEU’s pre-deployment is at an end, many Marines and Sailors are pleased with the progress they have made and are eager to begin the next phase, deployment.
Sielken said at the beginning of the pre-deployment he was not that confident in his abilities, but now he is ready and excited to deploy.
Bullard not only commended the Marines and Sailors of the MEU with their outstanding performance, but for ensuring that the MEU personnel that began training six months ago are going to be there when it’s time to deploy.
“It’s been a hard six months with many locations and lot’s of travel,” Bullard said. “We completed our pre-deployment without losing one Marine or Sailor.”