WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2011 — A Navy-Marine Corps unit completed a wide range of missions across the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean in the past year, ranging from reclaiming a container ship that had been taken over by pirates to providing relief in the aftermath of flooding in Pakistan.
Marine Corps Col. Roy Osborn, commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Navy Capt. Dale Fuller, former amphibious Squadron 3 commander of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, detailed some of those missions Feb. 9 during a “DOD Live” bloggers roundtable.
“I had about 2,300 Marines and sailors assigned to me,” Osborn said. I had a pretty heavy command element, a battalion-landing team — which is my infantry side — that has everything from tanks, tracks, artillery and riflemen in it. My combat-logistics battalion is a logistics-heavy combat-service-support heavy element that has everything from bulldozers to water makers in it. And then I have an air combat element, which is composed of helicopters, jets, maintainers and air defense, as well as communications capabilities.”
Fuller outlined the team’s naval capabilities.
“We have three ships assigned in supporting 15th MEU during this deployment,” he said. “We had the USS Peleliu, and Peleliu had approximately 2,000 sailors and Marines embarked. We carried and supported the helicopters on board. Along with that, we had four [utility landing craft] and, of course, the other capability, specifically, the surgical capability that we bring along with that ship by the fleet surgical team.”
The USS Dubuque, one of the oldest ships in the Navy, and the USS Pearl Harbor, one of its newer ships, also were part of the team.
Osborn gave a rundown on the team’s missions in 2010.
“We left in May, proceeded out to the Western Pacific, conducted operations in Timor-Leste and Indonesia, did a number of stops along the way, and then moved into [the 5th Fleet and U.S. Central Command area of responsibility],” he said, “and, in effect, conducted operations across the entire theater, to include operations in Africa as well.”
Overall, the team operated in 22 countries and five continents. The only places the team never operated are South America and Antarctica.
Osborn said the team’s missions were varied.
“We did the Pakistan flood relief,” he said. “We did [Operation Enduring Freedom] close-air support with our jets. We did the recovery of the [container ship MV Magellan Star] — the power takedown — and we also provided support for the rescued persons at sea, the Somali-Ethiopians, [whom] the Navy hosted for about 38 days.”
The recovery of the MV Magellan Star provided the perfect example of how the team can function effectively and efficiently, Osborn said.
“One of the things that we try to emphasize to everyone is [that] our MEU is a Navy-Marine Corps team,” he said. “The execution of the mission to recover the [Magellan] Star from the pirates probably was one of the best examples of the integration of the Navy and Marine Corps team.
The Navy and Marine Corps team integrated various capabilities, Osborn said — “launching the aircraft, getting in with eyes on target, having the [USS] Princeton in overwatch, having the Marine snipers in the Huey [helicopter], having the Marine snipers on the bridge wing of the [USS] Dubuque, having the raid force and the naval special warfare boats moved in.”
The recovery mission took place over less than 20 minutes from the moment the first boat touched the side of the MV Magellan Star, he added, noting that the mission was accomplished without firing a single shot.
Fuller spoke about the difficulties encountered while providing relief in the Pakistan flood.
“The flood in Pakistan was two separate disasters,” he said. “The northern half of the country was a flash-flood tsunami-type disaster. It literally scraped the sides of the mountains off. In the south, the second part of the flooding that we supported, it was slow-inundation flooding.”
Fuller coordinated the drop-off of supplies and the movement of 8,000 evacuees from the mountains in northern Pakistan. The team acted in support of the Pakistani military, and supplies were provided by the World Food Program, he added.
The relief program proved to be labor-intensive, Fuller said.
“We were covering just about every military operation you can think of — all the same way [and on the same day], and for multiple locations,” he said.
Even though the days were long, Fuller said, he remains proud of the work the Navy-Marine Corps team has accomplished, and sees it as a worthy investment.
“I think the sailors and Marines really did a fantastic job out there,” he said, “and what we pretty much demonstrated during our seven months is the return on investment that this … team gives our nation in supporting our national security concerns. … You really get your bang for the buck for this capability that the taxpayers are paying for.”
“One of my old bosses used to say, ‘You know, for every dollar you spend in peace is $10 in warfare.’ And that’s kind of the way we looked at it on this deployment,” he said. “We enjoy what we do,” Osborn continued. “It’s a fun job. But there’s a very busy world out there, and there’s a very insecure world out there, and so there’s plenty of work left to be done.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)