Logistics leathernecks train to evacuate U.S. citizens
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    Exclamation Logistics leathernecks train to evacuate U.S. citizens

    Logistics leathernecks train to evacuate U.S. citizens

    1/16/2009 By Cpl. Alicia R. Giron , 22nd MEU

    FORT PICKETT, Va. —In 1990, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a Non-combatant Evacuation Operation to rescue U.S. citizens and other third-country nationals from war-torn Liberia. The MEU operated in the West African nation for several weeks, evacuating more than 1,600 civilians in the longest-running NEO in history.

    With the help of professional civilian role-players, Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 22, 22nd MEU, caught a glimpse of reality during a NEO training exercise Jan. 16, 2009, aboard Fort Pickett, Va., a Virginia Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center.

    A NEO involves the safe evacuation of American civilians, embassy officials and authorized citizens of other countries in the event an emergency arises in a foreign country.

    "They're frightened because they're in a hostile environment and want to get some place safe," said Chief Warrant Officer Dawn Conklin, the maintenance officer for CLB-22 and the officer-in-charge for the NEO.

    CLB-22 conducted the exercise to train personnel for their upcoming deployment.

    "If there's something hostile going on in a country, we might have American citizens who are attached to local nationals," said Sgt. Scott D. Faulkner, a combat engineer with CLB-22, explaining why sometimes citizens of other countries are evacuated by the Marines. "It affords them the opportunity to get out of the country via the MEU."

    During the training, Marines established designated stations to support an orderly evacuation process. One of the biggest challenges to that order is the sheer number of people involved.

    In a NEO, the MEU's Forward Command Element will plan and coordinate with the embassy staff to determine how many people the CLB should plan to process.

    However, the fact that Americans living in a foreign country are not required to stay in touch with the embassy can throw the count off.

    The 24th MEU learned this lesson first-hand when they assisted in the evacuation of Americans and third-country nationals from Beirut in 2006. The number of personnel they evacuated was three times larger than estimate they were given.

    But, MEU's have learned to train for that eventuality.

    "They'll give you one figure and you always plan for three times that amount," said Conklin, a native of Missoula, Mont.

    The CLB's goal is to become proficient enough to process up to 100 people an hour after initial setup during an actual NEO.

    "Once we got to the site and we walked through, we were able to set up and start processing within 30 minutes," she said.

    According to Conklin, they got 53 role-players processed in an hour for this exercise.

    Marines searched evacuees for metal, weapons and Improvised Explosive Devices as they came through the simulated NEO camp prior to evacuation.

    Once the evacuees completed the check-in process and security screening, Marines loaded the role players into tactical vehicles, taking them to their final destination - a safe-haven in a real-world scenario.

    "We go through these exercises so we can be as solid as possible if we have to do it for real," added Faulkner.

    The 22nd MEU is a scalable, multipurpose force of more than 2,200 Marines and sailors. Commanded by Col. Gareth F. Brandl, it consists of its Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, CLB-22; and its Command Element.

    The 22nd MEU is currently conducting pre-deployment training and is scheduled to deploy this spring. For more information about the 22nd MEU, visit the unit's website at www.22meu.usmc.mil.


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