View Full Version : MSSG-22 overcomes weather and logistical constraints to accomplish mission

12-15-03, 05:10 AM
MSSG-22 overcomes weather and logistical constraints to accomplish mission
Submitted by: 22nd MEU
Story Identification Number: 2003121124953
Story by Sgt. Matt C. Preston

ABOARD THE USS WASP (Dec. 9, 2003) -- In order to deploy with a 'Special Operations Capable (SOC)' designation, a deploying Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) must show proficiency in a number of mission-essential tasks, one of which is the execution of humanitarian assistance (HA).

During the 22d MEU's recent Expeditionary Strike Group Exercise (ESGEX), its combat service support element, MEU Service Support Group 22, overcame severe logistical and weather problems to successfully provide humanitarian aid to a group of "international displaced persons."

Aboard the amphibious ships WASP, SHREVEPORT, and WHIDBEY ISLAND floating off the North Carolina coast, MSSG-22 planned to go ashore and execute the HA mission aboard Camp Lejeune. After an advance party led by Maj. Darin J. Clarke landed with minimal personnel and supplies, the fickleness of Mother Nature threw a wrench into MSSG-22's plan.

"We originally came ashore to establish communications and wait for the supplies to arrive the following day," said Clarke, MSSG-22's operations officer. "But the fog and winds slowed down the back load, and Special Operations Training Group (SOTG) asked if we could still accomplish the mission without most of our supplies and the key personnel."

In order to earn the SOC qualification from SOTG for humanitarian assistance, MSSG-22 had to validate its processing method. In spite of the delay in getting primary personnel ashore and to the HA site, the MSSG-22 leadership had the confidence in their Marines and Sailors on hand to get the job done.

"Due to the number of times that we rehearsed with a full setup and processing," said Clarke, "we decided to go ahead with the processing. We rehearsed with the personnel for approximately an hour and walked through the stations and the individual personnel's responsibility."

The lack of supplies, rather than being a showstopper, gave the Marines who had made it ashore the opportunity to step up to the plate and fill roles they normally would not have performed. Because the poor weather prevented the primary security team, infantrymen from Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, from landing, Marines from the MEU's Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) and Combined Arms Anti-Team (CAAT) platoons rolled in to give MSSG-22 a safe working environment. Within the camp, armorers became personnel clerks, Navy religious program specialists became camp escorts, and a warrant officer filled the role of mission commander until primary personnel were able to relieve them later in the day.

With so many Marines working outside of their primary training, success depended on other, intangible unifying factors. Esprit de corps and shared hardship reinforced the focus on the mission, rather than hindering it.

"We're all basic rifleman," said Sgt. Eric Gonzalez, an MSSG-22 operations clerk from Weslaco, Texas. "It was cold and miserable, but we got the job done."

Even in the medical department, corpsmen were able to provide initial care to the IDPs coming in. Though normally equipped with at least two cases of dedicated HA supplies, the corpsmen were able to provide limited care with the standard medical kits they always carry.

"We had all the basic sick call items," said Petty Officer 3d Class Jacquelyn Lee, of Marietta, Ohio, a MSSG-22 corpsman. "Most of our stuff is geared toward a mass casualty incident, so we would have been able to improvise with a lot of the stuff that we had."

Though there were many disadvantages the Marines had to overcome, there was one bright spot amid the cold, rain and fog. Representatives from the United Nations, the International Red Cross and the U.S. State Department came out to give their input as how to best coordinate between the host nation, international relief organizations, the Marine Corps and the diplomatic corps. Coordinating with these agencies is a key factor to providing the level of support necessary for the long haul.

"Humanitarian Assistance is not always short in duration but could take an extended amount of time that would require Non-Governmental Organizations to take over so the MEU can conduct other missions," said Clarke. "The State Department, host nation, and International Relief Organizations will provide the funding and guidance to bring an area back to its original condition."

"The quick response of the Marine Corps provides this assistance until Non-Governmental Organizations are able to transition and provide for the people," said Clarke. "The MEU is able to provide temporary relief until civil organizations, whether private or non-governmental, are able to get established and provide continued relief to the people."

Flexibility, persistence, unity, and training -- all of these factors culminated in MSSG-22 receiving the thumbs up from SOTG who evaluated and graded MSSG-22's performance during the HA exercise. Other evaluations of the MEU's mission-essential tasks, such as a long-range precision raid, took place during ESGEX while the others will take place during the MEU's SOC Exercise (SOCEX) in January.

In addition to MSSG-22 and BLT 1/6, the 22d MEU consists of its Command Element and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced). The 22d MEU is scheduled to deploy early next year as part of ESG 2.

For more information on the mission, organization, and status of the 22d MEU, visit the unit's website at www.22meu.usmc.mil.


A Marine with the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) processes a 'displaced person' during a humanitarian assistance exercise conducted aboard Camp Lejeune during the MEU's recent Expeditionary Strike Group Exercise. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Joey R. Garza