Navy-Marine Corps Unit Provides Numerous Capabilities

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.”

Osborn agreed.

“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)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter