FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. --
The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit has been conducting a comprehensive Marine air-ground task force exercise since March 20 at numerous locations in California as part of its pre-deployment program.
The exercise, running until April 9, is a culmination of past exercises, and is the final land-based training the MEU will conduct as a MAGTF, before shifting focus to embarked training with the ships of Amphibious Squadron 7. Future training has the MEU conducting sea-based exercises and executing missions from ship to shore.
The MEU decided on Fort Hunter Liggett and surrounding installations to perform the bulk of its training, based on the available ranges, facilities and variety of terrain the central coast offers.
“The reason we came up here is to put Marines in an unfamiliar environment, away from our home base,” said Lt. Col. Robert C. Rice, the MEU’s operations officer. “It demonstrates our ability to run missions over a 200-nautical-mile area.”
The rolling hills throughout the training locations presented new opportunities for Marines used to the desert terrain of installations in Yuma, Ariz. and Twentynine Palms; where many units conduct their pre-deployment training.
“We use terrain to mask ourselves from threats, and we just can’t practice that at most of the places we train,” said 1st Lt. Jerry Peacock, a CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopter pilot with HMM-166. “It also allowed us to practice steep approaches both at day and night.”
The hardest part of conducting such a large exercise is incorporating all of the MAGTF together, said Rice. “The more missions we plan together, the more comfortable we get, which makes us better in the end.”
All MAGTFs, including a MEU, consist of four main components, a ground combat element, an aviation combat element, a combat service support element and a command element.
The 11th MEU’s subordinate units are Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (Reinforced) and Combat Logistics Battalion 11.
During the exercises, all the MEU’s major subordinate elements planned and executed missions together. The training included aerial gunnery, calling in close-air support, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel and multiple practice raids.
The next step in the MEU’s training is to embark upon amphibious assault ships and integrate with the Navy to form a functional team that can respond to almost any situation, be it combat or a humanitarian operation that may arise during deployment later this year.