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."