CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
More than 2,200 Marines and sailors from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned here June 21 after serving seven months in the Western Pacific, Middle East and Horn of Africa regions.
The MEU deployed from San Diego in mid-November, 2011, embarking the Navy’s newest amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, as well as USS New Orleans and USS Pearl Harbor. As part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, the 11th MEU participated in 14 exercises with regional host nations in both U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Central Command where the MEU served as a reserve force supporting contingency operations.
“We were able to sharpen our skills while strengthening partnerships with our hosts,” said Col. Michael R. Hudson, 11th MEU commanding officer. “From survival and jungle training in Cambodia and Malaysia to full-scale raids and live-fire exercises with counterparts throughout the Middle East and Horn of Africa, this deployment employed all the capabilities of our air-ground-logistics team.”
The MEU's major subordinate elements are Battalion Landing Team 3/1, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 (Reinforced) and Combat Logistics Battalion 11. This team, along with the unit's command element, has been working together as a complete air-ground-logistics team since May, 2011.
“Although we are most capable as a three-ship (group), positioning our forces throughout our area of operations permitted Marines to be three and sometimes four places at once,” Hudson said. “At one point, we were participating in three different large-scale exercises in the Western Pacific, while simultaneously planning three more. We were able to accomplish these exercises and other contingency-support missions because of the agility and capability inherent in a MEU embarked on amphibious ships.”
The Marines and sailors participated in 80 live-fire exercises in which they fired more than 600,000 rounds, according the Master Gunnery Sgt. Wilbert Haverly, the unit’s operations chief.
The aviation combat element, also known as the Red Dragons, flew 3,559 hours and conducted 2,407 assorted missions, according to Sgt. Anthony D. Hamilton.
Hamilton, 24, is a Canton, Mich., native and serves as an aviation operations specialist with the squadron.
Many service members attended formal military training or college classes while deployed, according to Haverly. Twelve Corporals Course classes graduated 385 students and 15 facilitators were able to provide more than 290 students with 857 combined college credits in various courses.
Most of the MEU’s Marines and sailors will come ashore by helicopters and landing craft while a small number will ride the ships to port in San Diego June 22.
“The performance of our Marines and sailors was outstanding during the preparation phase and while deployed,” said Hudson. “Our team showed their expertise across the spectrum of expeditionary operations. Now comes one of the best parts: reuniting with family. These men and women have earned some time with their loved ones and can rest easy knowing they made a difference.”