View Full Version : 26th MEU advance group deploys

03-04-03, 06:19 AM
26th MEU advance group deploys
Marines and sailors left Camp Lejeune for Norfolk, Va., on Monday to pave the way for more than 2,300 members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit to leave Wednesday.

The group of about 200 assorted specialists will set up shop aboard amphibious assault ships Iwo Jima, Nashville and Carter Hall as it waits for the rest of their forces.

“They include embarkers who make liaison with the ship’s beachmasters and people to get the computer network up and running,” said 26th MEU spokesman Capt. James Jarvis.

“Every section in the MEU is sending representatives to set up the infrastructure and facilitate a smooth on-load.”

The MEU will deploy with nearly 200 more people than usual to operate and maintain extra helicopters to carry personnel, equipment and supplies and a civil affairs detachment to coordinate building projects in underdeveloped or war-torn countries.

Members of the 26th MEU have been busy with various training exercises, including one on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons defense in December and a force-on-force exercise in January.

They also practiced with high-altitude, high-opening parachutes that allow them to exit an aircraft at 10,000 feet safely over friendly territory and glide 20 miles beyond enemy lines.

Additionally, the MEU’s troops trained to go ashore on helicopters, small boats or assault amphibian vehicles to hit enemy positions, rescue downed pilots, reinforce embassies and evacuate U.S. citizens, as well as to respond with first aid, food, water and protection in the event of a natural or manmade disaster.

As troops left Monday, a Vietnam War veteran passed the torch to his son, who was leaving with the MEU.

As the rising sun sent orange fingers of light across the morning sky, Sgt. Nathan Wilson, 26, a radio operator from Boiling Springs, S.C., stood next to the bus that would take him away.

“I’m very proud of him,” said Wilson’s father, Dave Wilson, who served with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in Vietnam. “Serving your country is of the utmost importance, and it is a great honor.”

Wilson’s wife, Shannon, 26, and his mother, Margaret, are worried.

Margaret Wilson could not speak clearly as her eyes welled up with tears and she hugged her 2-year old granddaughter Faith tightly to her chest.

The family has experienced separation before when Nathan spent a year in Okinawa, Japan, but with the possibility of war with Iraq, Shannon Wilson had more anxiety this time.

“The preparation for him to go today is the hardest part,” she said. “But the best part is when they come home.”