CAMP PENDELTON, Calif. --
The rocks and sand shook as the vehicles approached the exercise site. The landscape was vast with a view of the ocean off in the distance where one could see the sun touch the water as it sets. The vehicles came to a stop and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s field exercise had finally begun Sept 12.
This is the 11th MEU’s first field exercise since coming back from their previous deployment back in 2012. For a lot of new MEU personnel, this was the first time conducting any type of operations in a field setting in the fleet.
The purpose of the field exercise was to complete a safe evolution; embark and set-up all CP equipment, conduct an in process review of all systems, equipment, and billets, validating the command operations center set up, programs and billet requirements, rehearsing COC functions in preparation for the MEU's upcoming deployment.
“There are a lot of ‘first timers’ when it comes to this exercise,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ji Young Kim, the 11th MEU’s assistant operations chief. “This exercise is all about letting Marines learn from their mistakes so that we can better execute operations in the future.”
After the Marines grounded their packs, they began setting up the Combat Operation Center, which serves as the headquarters for the MEU while they conduct field operations.
After several long, sweaty days of building the COC from the ground up, the Marines were finally ready to set up their own sections.
Kim said in order to complete the overall mission in the COC, sections must accomplish their own tasks. With operations, communications, intel and transportation running smoothly in conjunction with each other, the COC becomes a “well-oiled machine.”
While maintaining operations within their sections, Marines conducted various guard duties to simulate a combat environment.
An exercise of this scale required someone to supervise and lead so it could go as smooth as possible. Master Sgt. Isaac Hart, the headquarters commandant, was accountable for the guard force and exercise fluidity, while making sure Marine’s basic needs were provided.
“Juggling Marines around so that they’re not drained was probably the biggest challenge for me,” said Hart. “If you don’t balance the work among the Marines during the day you can drain them, especially during the hottest days. What I did for the most part was balance the responsibilities amongst them so that they wouldn’t be so challenged constantly.”
Between the guard posts, working parties and regular duties, work seemed continuous throughout the day. However, to Hart, the Marines did not seem challenged and had nothing but praise for the execution of the exercise itself.
“If I had to grade us I would give us an A,” said Hart. “There is always room for improvement but in terms of our execution I give us an A. I think our overall efforts and our execution gave us results that the commanding officer would want.”
On Sept 11th, Marines interrupted their exercise to honor those who had fallen during the Sept. 11th tragedy in 2001 by silently standing in formation in front of the beach. The day ended with both the commanding officer and sergeant major providing words of wisdom and prayer to emphasize how important the moment was.
The MEU is scheduled to participate in more field ops in the future to continue to maintain mission readiness. Hart said when the time comes to conduct pre-deployment training, the MEU would be ready.