January 15, 2009

22nd MEU lands at Fort Pickett for training

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

22nd MEU

A Marine with the 22nd MEU pulls security with his M249 squad automatic weapon after an IED attack. The 22nd MEU is spending two weeks training at Fort Pickett to prepare for an upcoming overseas deployment. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — More than 2,200  Marines of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina arrived at Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center Jan. 9 to begin training in preparation for an upcoming overseas deployment this spring.

The MTC is opening their facilities to train the Marines in an as close to a realistic battlefield environment as possible.

Utilizing the modern facilities of the Military Operations in Urban Terrain lanes Jan. 13 the Marines got a hands on feel of what life will be like while deployed to Southwest Asia.

Marines patrolling the MOUT site were met by professional role-players, improvised explosive devices, and rocket-propelled grenades. The Marines patrolled the streets and reacted to attacks just as they would in real life while still trying to communicate and keep professionalism while dealing with local nationals.

Staying in the good graces of the local population while deployed and keeping up good rapport with the locals is vital to operations overseas and the Marines reflected that in their training as well.

22nd MEU

An IED explodes in front of a AAV7A1 Amphibious Assault Vehicle full of Marines from the 22nd MEU during an exercise at Fort Pickett, Va. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“You can simulate all the IEDs you want, do all the MOUT you want,” said Marine Sgt. Christopher Kellner, a squad leader in the 22nd MEU. “But you don’t actually get time to sit down with the role players, so it was a big help with the role players helping us out.”

While training at a unit’s home station is effective sometimes their facilities cannot always accommodate such large-scale training events.

“The Marines chose Fort Pickett because of the training areas, the MOUT site and it would accommodate the whole Expeditionary Unit, Marine Expeditianry Unit and their train up towards their upcoming deployment,” said Jim Weaver, operations manager for International Charter Inc., which works for Defense Training Systems to train Soldiers and Marines.

In addition to the MOUT site the Marines are taking advantage of many of the other diverse training venues available at  Fort Pickett including  live-fire convoy courses, urban villages, tank ranges, artillery firing positions and several small-arms ranges.
While the majority of the 22nd MEU will be participating in the training events hosted by the MTC, small contingents of 80-100 Marines will be conducting three coordinated exercises off base.

The exercises, known as Rural Urban Training, are designed to enhance the 22nd MEU’s capability to conduct operations in a realistic urban environment.

 Incorporated in this training are four scenario-driven Situational Training Exercises conducted in a variety of settings in central Virginia.  The sites chosen for training replicate areas the 22nd MEU might operate in while deployed. These areas include “downtown”, “industrial” and “village” characteristics

22nd MEU

Two Marines pull security and search the area amidst the smoke of an IED blast in the MOUT site of Fort Pickett, Va. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The RUT program, mandated by the Secretary of Defense, has been in existence for over 20 years and is closely coordinated with and approved by city, county, state and federal agencies. 

Coordination within the USMC includes approvals and oversight from the commanding general II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C., and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. 

The Marine Corps will work closely with many City of Richmond departments and city officials from outlying communities while planning and executing this training.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit 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, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element.

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