of vehicles, aircraft and equipment at sea is heavily
dependent on having a ship load plan and plans for
expeditionary logistics and resupply. It is especially
important in the growing likelihood that ARG/MEUs
— and really any seagoing naval expeditionary force —
will be split apart at some point during a deployment,
doing distributed operations in sometimes separate
theaters of operation.
It is a rare ARG/MEU deployment where the blue-green force does not split up in some way to conduct
distributed operations, perhaps joining in a theater
security engagement exercise with an ally or joining in
a contingency disaster relief operation.
The Boxer ARG/MEU saw that when it entered the
U.S. Fifth Fleet region in early summer, when Marines
joined in operations off Yemen, trained in Jordan with
local forces for exercise Agile Lion and supported
Operation Inherent Resolve with 34 strike missions in
Iraq over a course of 27 days. Those missions were done
“near-simultaneously,” Col. Anthony Henderson, the
13th MEU commander, told reporters Sept. 10 when
the MEU command element returned to Marine Corps
Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
“At any point in time, we were in eight to 10 countries,
supporting our partners” and spread out on ships over
1,800 miles, he said. That included a mechanized force
of about 600 Marines that offloaded from Harpers Ferry
with tanks, AAVs and artillery for the Jordan exercise,
and MEU Marines conducting short-notice sustainment
training in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
That high operational tempo kept
flight deck personnel and maintainers busy turning around aircraft and
doing necessary checks and repairs,
while Landing Force units ashore
tackled minor repairs and emergent
issues. Split-ARG operations can
make it harder to grab a needed
replacement part and get it to the
ship where a unit needs it, so “you
have to increase the redundancy
or have redundant parts” on other
ships, said Maj. Zach Embers, the
13th MEU logistics (S- 4) officer. If
a ship is in Fifth Fleet region, say,
sometimes “it might be faster, even
if I have it on one ship, to reach
back to CONUS [the continental
United States] and order it aboard.”
During the deployment, “on
more than one occasion, it was
faster for us to reach back and get it
forward,” Embers said.
Sourcing a repair or replacement part is a daily focus of the MEU’s command
element, while the MEU’s Combat Logistics Squadron
13 provided tactical-level logistics, supply and maintenance support to the ground combat element. To help,
the 13th MEU sent “distribution liaison cells” composed of Marines ahead to several countries during
“They essentially are like FedEx,” Embers said.
Each cell has an officer and a staff noncommissioned officer and worked from Bahrain, the main
regional logistics hub, and from distribution centers
and fleet logistics centers and in known ports slated for
MEU visits, including Singapore and Japan.
That logistics and maintenance network can smooth
unexpected problems when repair or maintenance is
needed ashore. Broken equipment or vehicles cannot
be left ashore in foreign countries.
While in the UAE, one of the 13th MEU’s CH-53E
Super Stallion heavy transport helicopters had a broken main rotor head, and needed a replacement.
“It’s a multimillion-dollar part that only goes into
a C-130 if you put [the part’s container] on its side,”
It was a top priority. They had to get that helicopter
out in time and back aboard ship.
“We were racing the clock,” said Capt. Brian “Scott”
Villiard, the 13th MEU public affairs officer. “We only
had country clearance to be in [UAE] for a certain period of time,” and the ships were scheduled to leave the
area for other operational commitments.
11 WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / NOVEMBER 2016
Marines and Sailors use a 60-ton crane to hoist the cover for an assault amphibious vehicle engine aboard the dock landing ship USS Comstock during an
at-sea training period July 13. The predeployment training cycle was designed
to develop a strong working relationship between the Marines of the 11th
Marine Expeditionary Unit and Sailors of Amphibious Squadron Five prior to their
deployment to the Pacific and Central Command areas of operations.