January 11, 2014 -- CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit gained all the elements necessary to make it a complete Marine Air Ground Task Force Jan. 11. A composite ceremony and static display event here commemorated the activation of the MEU and the journey to its 2014 deployment.
Marines and sailors of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (reinforced), Battalion Landing Team 2/1, and Combat Logistics Battalion 11 fell into rank and file for the composite ceremony before showing off their full range of capabilities through displayed equipment. These units are no longer identified as the individual units they were, but now as the 11th MEU’s air combat, ground combat and logistics combat elements, respectively.
“I think it’s important that we formally recognize the elements coming together to comprise the MEU,” said Col. Matthew Trollinger, 11th MEU commanding officer. “Part of that recognition is acknowledging the significant training we will embark upon to conduct the various missions we are expected to do when we deploy.”
The ceremony really illustrated the newly amassed conglomerate of Marines and sailors. According to Sgt. Maj. Troy Black, 11th MEU sergeant major, the number swelled to more than 2,400 practically overnight. Something special had to acknowledge that transition.
“What we have to do is bring together the MEU family, and it doesn’t just include the Marines; it includes literally the family of the Marines,” he said. “When you include the family in that ceremony… we’re kind of compositing the family of the MEU.”
Following the ceremony, attendees turned their attention to various MEU vehicles, aircraft, weapons, and equipment. Trollinger believes having all that equipment displayed gives the Marines a sense of what they’re a now a part of.
“There are Marines in the air combat element who have never seen a tank or light armored vehicle up close before, or who have never seen a sniper with his gear and equipment,” he said. “Marines who will be part of the vertical assault company who have never been on an MV-22B Osprey, or even seen one, get a chance to see it and to talk to guys who operate and maintain it. Part of it is building relationships … and also understanding the scope of what the MEU is going to be.”
Just as importantly, the unit’s family members gained a deeper look into the MEU. Though this is his second time deploying with the 11th MEU, one Marine gave his wife her first look at what his unit does.
“It’s a great chance for her to experience first-hand what she hears about,” said Sgt. Justin Young, communications help desk chief and a Hoover, Ala. native. “She gets to put eyes on the different pieces of machinery and pieces of gear. It gives her a better understanding of what we do as a unit as well as to interact with other spouses and Marines.”
Being surrounded by the very pieces of equipment, vehicles and aircraft their Marines will use during the deployment was a valuable experience for many family members in attendance. One gained a peek at what her husband will see in the coming months.
“I think I have a little bit more of an appreciation of what he does,” said Marissa Cuervo, wife of a platoon commander with BLT 2/1. “When he comes home every day, I kind of hear stories, but now it’s like an application. I got to see what he really does in getting prepared for what might be coming in the future and getting a greater sense of what the future holds for us. I also came because I wanted my son to see a bit of what his father does.”
The ceremony and static displays are the first of many successes as a joint effort between the elements, as expected by Lt. Gen. John Toolan, I Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general.
“In today’s day in age, crises abound all over the globe and one of the tenets of our nation is that we will always have forces forward,” said Toolan. “What you have in front of you today is an organization that right now is pretty well-honed. Over the next couple of months, there is going to be some very tough and demanding training that’s going on, but I know that they’re in great hands and that Col. Trollinger has a great team on the Navy side.”
From 2011 to 2012, the 11th MEU was the first to embark upon the Navy’s new hybrid drive warship the USS Makin Island. This time around, it is the first MEU to break in the USS San Diego, an amphibious transport dock. When they deploy later in 2014, the “Pride of the Pacific” will be the first MEU to embark with another new partner: the Special Operations Forces Liaison Element.
"The 11th MEU is prepared to conduct its upcoming pre-deployment training and subsequent deployment with representation from the special operations community,” said Trollinger. “They will facilitate liaison and collaborative planning with Theater Special Operations Commands and other special operations units in an effort to improve our support to Geographic Combatant Commanders."
The 11th MEU is partnered with the Navy’s Amphibious Squadron 5, an Amphibious Ready Group. The MAGTF will embark aboard the USS Makin Island, the USS San Diego, and the USS Comstock.