Thursday, June 10, 2010

By Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Marines and sailors from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-13, I Marine Expeditionary Force held loved ones and friends for the first time in more than a month, during their return from Exercise Native Fury 2010 in the Middle East, May 30.

The exercise brought together more than 200 Marines and sailors to train with military forces in the region and build interoperability.

"It made me more proficient since we used different radios than we are used to," said Cpl. Carlos Velazquez, a multichannel radio operator with Special Purpose MAGTF-13. "Right now I'm glad to be home and I'm just gonna enjoy the weekend."

Shortly after returning from deployment, Special Purpose MAGTF-13 became re-designated as the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit command element and Combat Logistics Battalion 13.

"We were tasked to go to Exercise Native Fury, which is in United States Central Command, to demonstrate and practice maritime prepositioning of ships," said Col. David W. Coffman, the commanding officer of 13th MEU. "It enables us to get the training camp repetition in to make sure we are all prepared to start our full work-ups later this summer. We used this exercise to ensure access to ports and airfields and to work with our partners in the region. We had great success moving Marines and materials from ship to shore. It was a great opportunity to develop relationships with our partners."

"They did fabulously well and we look forward to getting all the Marines and materials back home," finished Coffman.

Marines and sailors from the 13th MEU command element and CLB-13 will spend the next month taking leave and preparing for the months ahead as they train and complete the requirements to make them a force in readiness.

13th MEU Families, Friends Bond During Family Day

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Under a bright sun, service members and their families squared off against each other, shooting gobs of green paint from makeshift cover as their younger children played in inflatable playhouses.
After playing several team matches, the intelligence section pummeled operations, administration, logistics and communications in a paintball "capture the flag" style tournament.
"It was freaking awesome," said Cpl. Chris Papson, an intelligence systems administrator with the 13th MEU. "We had a good team. I've been in dozens of games, so I brought my technique, which is shooting as many rounds down range as possible while moving fast. The funniest part was getting shot up by the little kids."
For some of the kids, this day marked the first time they shot with a paintball gun, which is often called a paintball marker by enthusiasts.
Members of Calvary Chapel, San Juan Capistrano, decorated children's faces at an arts and crafts booth. They also catered the event complete with hotdogs, hamburgers and barbecued chicken.
"We have a heart for service members, and we're glad to be out here today," said Jon Rogers, one of the coordinators of the event. "We're here to support those who support us keeping the home front secure."
In addition to volunteer work from Calvary Chapel, many of the Marines helped set up and supervise the various events.
"I've worked with kids at horse ranches and volunteer events and when they're happy I'm happy," said Pfc. Blake Johnson, a radio operator with the communications section of the 13th MEU. "Seeing them happy makes it all worth it."
A watermelon eating competition concluded the day's events when Pfc. Omar Brown, a radio operator from the communications section, cleaned out a watermelon half and defeated the Marines from each section. Representatives from the Anaheim Marine Adoption Committee provided gift cards for the winners in the competitions.
"This family day has been very successful with great turnout," said Bryan Vaughn, the family readiness officer for the 13th MEU. "We've had great support from the Marines and their wives."
The 13th MEU plans to hold another family day in August, as they begin the "meat and potatoes" of their work-ups for deployment. Just as this family day brought the MEU together, future family days will help strengthen not just the bond between Marines but their loved ones as well.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sgt. Maj. Hines retires after 30 years of honorable service

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Apr. 9, 2010)—After more than 30 years in the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Enrique X. Hines, former sergeant major of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, bid farewell to the Corps aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., during his retirement ceremony today.
Hines, who moved to the Bronx, New York from Costa Rica when he was four-years-old, said he knew he wanted to join the military when he was only 16. After talking to his uncle, a captain with the Army 82nd Airborne Division, he made his decision to joined the few and the proud. His uncle’s insight from working with Marines and Hines’ strong determination to finish all things through to the end are unswervingly accountable for the place he is at today.
In the 11th grade Hines enlisted in the Marines with a military occupational specialty of combat engineer. However, for Hines doing his job and nothing more, was not quite enough. He used his background in martial arts to learn and teach every form of hand-to-hand combat he encountered during his career.
By the time he achieved the rank of sergeant, he was sure he wanted to do at least 20 years and retire from the Marine Corps.
“Sgt. Maj. Hines is the best combination of power and love I have ever seen in a Marine,” said Col. David W. Coffman, commanding officer, 13th MEU. “He is the example of everything we want our warriors to be.”
Hines said it was the Marines he served with that made him most proud during his 30 years. He described how it means much more to get appreciation from someone who served under you than from someone senior in rank.
For Hines, it was the magnitude of people he met that made the Corps enjoyable for the 30 years he was in.
“People make the Corps,” said Hines, “we should never forget that.”
Today, the Corps continues to drive on one sergeant major short of yesterday. The contributions Hines left behind will be remembered by all those who have served with him—his service will not be forgotten.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

13th MEU sergeant major departs unit after four years, new man fills his shoes

The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s command element gathered at Artillery Firing Area 15, Camp Pendleton, Calif., today in formation to bear witness to the departure of Sgt. Maj. Enrique X. Hines, outgoing sergeant major, 13th MEU, and to welcome his replacement, Sgt. Maj. Juan M. Hidalgo.

After more than four years with the 13th MEU and 30 years in the Marine Corps, Hines relinquished his final position and bid farewell to the last Marines he would ever lead—April 9 marks his retirement date.

Following the traditions of the Marine Corps, a symbolic noncommissioned officer’s sword was passed from the outgoing sergeant major to the incoming recognizing the passing of responsibility from Sgt. Maj. Hines to Sgt. Maj. Hidalgo.

“It’s been a good ride,” said Hines who hails from the Republic of Costa Rica. “It’s bitter sweet, I’m happy to be leaving, but it’s tough.”

Hines addressed the senior leadership, his peers and Marines while reminiscing on all the good times he would miss.

He left his soapbox shortly after stepping on it, but not without leaving a few words of wisdom for the man who now claims the title of 13th MEU sergeant major.

“You will definitely see the spirit of the ‘Fighting Thirteenth’,” said Hines to Hidalgo. “You’re coming into a great unit.”

He told the incoming sergeant major that he could not have asked for a better replacement and that his reputation preceded him.

Hidalgo, formerly the command sergeant major for 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion and native of San Diego, said he looked forward to serving with the Marines of the 13th MEU and answered a question that was running through all the Marines’ heads. What kind of sergeant major was coming to lead them? His answer was short, simple and to the point.

“We’re going to follow the Marine Corps standard,” said Hidalgo.

The history of the “Fighting Thirteenth” now rests in the hands of their new sergeant major, and their future of outstanding service will be based on his ability to lead the command element to success; a concept not unfamiliar to the Marines now under his charge.

“I’m losing my battle buddy,” said Col. David W. Coffman, commanding officer, 13th MEU. “I had the best battle buddy in the Marine Corps and I’m gonna miss him.”

Turning to his new battle buddy, Coffman welcomed Hidalgo to the unit and said he looked forward to the many good times to come.

Monday, February 8, 2010

13th MEU turns 25

Story and photo by Sgt. Jimmy Green
Monday, Feb. 1, marked the 25th anniversary of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit's inception.
Exactly 25 years ago here, the formerly named 13th Marine Amphibious Unit was activated.
Approximately three years later, the name changed to its current title.
From 1990 to 1995, the 13th MEU participated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Southwest Asia, and Operation United Shield in Somalia.
From 1996 to 2007, the MEU participated in Operation Southern Watch, Southwest Asia; Humanitarian Assistance Operations in East Timor; Operation Determined Response, Yemen; Maritime Interception Operations, Northern Arabian Gulf; and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
The 13th MEU's few returning veterans this year include Lt. Col. Ronald A. Stephens, the unit's future operations officer.
"I did two floats from 1993 to 1995," Stephens recalls. "I first came to the MEU as a replacement for a lieutenant who was medically evacuated."
During his time with the 13th MEU, Stephens served as the Engineer Detachment officer in charge. He participated in Operation United Shield, Operation United Nations in Somalia and Operation Continued Hope.
After Stephen's first float, he extended his contract to deploy a second time, which departed U.S. soil only six months after his first deployment with the MEU ended.
Ironically enough, Stephens deployed on the USS Comstock, a ship that was a part of the 13th MEU's most recent deployment.
Even with the changes in the MEU from then to now, Stephens is eager to get out again for a third time with the "Fighting Thirteenth."
"It seems like we had a lot more liberty back then, even when we were operationally committed," said Stephens. "But I will say that today's MEU is a lot more capable."
Through the various changes over the last 25 years, the 13th MEU still remains 'most ready when the nation is least ready' and is currently preparing for their 2011 deployment.
Stephens, along with the rest of the 13th MEU team, is optimistic and excited to see what the next float will bring to the table.

Exercise Iron Fist Kicks Off Joining US and Japanese Forces

Story and photos by Sgt. Jimmy Green

The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit welcomed the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force to Camp Pendleton today for the fifth iteration of Exercise Iron Fist.
Exercise Iron Fist is a three-week bi-lateral training event between the Marine Corps and JGSDF designed to increase the interoperability between the two services while aiding the Japanese in their continued development of amphibious capabilities.
Senior officers participating in the exercise expressed their appreciation and excitement for the upcoming training.
"We are grateful for the opportunity to train with and learn from our friends in the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force," said Col. David W. Coffman, commanding officer for the 13th MEU.
Coffman, a native of Eustis, Fla., said he was delighted to have the opportunity to host the JGDSF and repay them for the tremendous hospitality they have long-offered American forces in their country.
The JGSDF and Marine Forces Pacific share a common virtue of increasing bilateral training and exercises. Exercise Iron Fist will allow both services to focus on amphibious operations and Marine Corps-JGSDF interoperability.
"We are able to operate functionally back at home," said Lt. Col. Hironobu Tanaka, officer in charge of the JGSDF attending the exercise. "This is a great chance for us to operate jointly with another organization and practice interoperability skills."
Tanaka said he is very excited to train in southern California and looks forward to learning from the Marines and sailors.
"This is a big facility, we don't have the infrastructure to do this in Japan," said Tanaka.
Maj. Anthonol Neely, assistant operations officer with the 13th MEU, said this exercise will allow the Japanese to work processes and tools in a different environment to help in their nation's self defense.
The JGSDF prepared for ship life, honed their marksmanship skills and practiced amphibious landings before coming to participate in Iron Fist.
Along with the skills already possessed by the JGSDF, Marines working beside them will offer new tools for their toolbox. The JGSDF will train in amphibious staff planning, execution of amphibious operations, limited offensive and extensive defensive tactics, techniques and procedures.
"The skills they will gain will aid them in preparing for what they hope will never happen," said Neely who hails from Nashville, Tenn.
While this is Neely's first time participating in Iron Fist, he said he feels it will be rewarding.
"Anytime we get a chance to work with coalition forces is beneficial because we get an opportunity to facilitate working with them in the future," said Neely. "It makes us more well-rounded. It presents an opportunity to learn about different cultures and it will be a learning experience for all involved."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bronze Star Medal

Lt. Col. Ryan Coughlin, operations officer, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, receives the Bronze Star Medal on Jan. 20, 2010. Coughlin was awarded the medal for his duties as Military Training Team chief for the 29th Iraqi Army Brigade. He and his team of 18 Marines and one sailor advised the IAB. Photo by Sgt. Jimmy Green

13th MEU holds combat lifesaver course in preparation of deployment

Story and photos by Sgt. Jimmy Green

With the increasing number of Marines deploying, corpsman are out-numbered and overwhelmed. Being proactive to the lessons learned in combat, the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s command element held a combat lifesaver course to prepare Marines to aid corpsman in the unfortunate event of mass casualty situations. This would allow more Marines to provide first aid than the corpsman could administer at one time.
The first combat lifesaver course of the rotation was held Jan. 4-7. Fourteen Marines from various sections of the command element to include combat camera and intelligence were trained on how to be first responders. Rank or billet did not discriminate. The course was built with students ranging from lance corporal to major.
The intensive four-day course prepared Marines to deal with burns, fractures, collapsed lungs, sucking chest wounds, hemorrhages, hypothermia and treating for shock.
At the end of the course and throughout the curriculum, students were continuously tested on their knowledge through written exams and practical application.
“It’s a really good course as long as Marines take the material seriously,” said Sgt. Sukhwant-rajpal Gill, intelligence analyst with the 13th MEU command element. “It gives you a basic understanding of how to help Marines if corpsmen are limited. You can possibly save a wounded Marine’s life instead of standing by not knowing what to do.”
Gill, a native of Moreno Valley, Calif., said he had a brief understanding of the material before entering the class because his parents were both nurses and he had family that worked in the medical field, but nonetheless, he felt the course was still very beneficial.
“I definitely recommend this course to someone who has had no medical training, however, I think anyone could benefit from this class in some way,” said Gill.
Marines and corpsman alike both share Gill's idea.
"Having Marines go through the combat livessaver course is a force multiplyer," said Senior Chief Christopher W. Thorne, 13th MEU medical planner. "It allows corpsman to focus on the most critical injuries while Marines can help their buddies out."
Several CLS courses will be conducted before the 13th MEU deploys and refresher course for those who underwent the training will also take place.