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24th MEU hones ship to shore capabilities

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When severe drought, earthquakes and numerous other natural disasters strike, more times than not it’s a Marine Expeditionary Unit that is first on scene to provide a helping hand. 

Delivering relief supplies, medical attention and endless other types of aide is just one of many operations the 24th MEU is trained to perform flawlessly and its Marines and sailors sharpened these skills during a Humanitarian Assistance exercise as part of the Special Operation Training Group coordinated Composite Training Unit Exercise Oct. 31 through Nov. 3.  The scenario driven HA exercise tested the unit’s capabilities to coordinate, transport, and employ its infantry, logistic and aviation elements from the Nassau Amphibious Ready Group ships to land.  “This humanitarian aid exercise was the first time all pieces of the MEU came together from [separate] ships, coordinated, and completed a mission on shore,” said Maj. Keith Owens, executive officer, Combat Logistics Battalion-24, 24th MEU.  Marines quickly consolidated the necessary equipment from USS Nassau, USS Mesa Verde and USS Ashland, though initially this task was challenging. However, once the shipboard Marine Corps-Navy team started functioning as a single unit, it was just a matter of time before everything needed for the mission was beach bound.  “Having to work with the Navy, getting from one ship to the other, and then to shore has made this training very different from what we have done before at base,” said 1st Lt. Gregory Procaccini, humanitarian assistance ground team leader, CLB-24, 24th MEU.  “On land, you can’t simulate Marines riding in helicopters and [Navy landing crafts] from the middle of the ocean to their destination.  There is nothing like practicing what we would really do.”  Landing Craft, Air Cushioned vessels from Assault Craft Unit - 4 dispatched equipment and manpower to the coast where Marines transported supplies already stockpiled by relief agencies, then distributed these goods to interior locations to be handed out to role-players representing displaced citizens.  Security provided by Combined Anti-Armor Team Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th MEU, sped up movement of equipment and Marines between locations.  These Marines established security check points near the HA site and reinforced helicopter landing zone security.  “Our focus on this mission was security for other Marines providing the support, and we have the weapon systems to provide that security,” said 1st Lt. David Moran, CAAT Platoon commander, Weapons Co., BLT 1/9, 24th MEU.  “This exercise benefits us because we can validate our standard operating procedures, continue to build unit cohesion, get use to ship-to-shore movement and polish off our training that we’ve done up to this point.”  This exercise is just one of multiple projection of amphibious force missions the 24th MEU must be prepared for in its role as the landing force for the Nassau Amphibious Ready Group which is scheduled to deploy early next year.