FORT PICKETT, VA. --
Marines are known for their tactical prowess, their ability to persevere through austere conditions and their bravery in combat.
What they may not be as well known for is their ability to provide care for those in need, anywhere around the world.
Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 22, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training exercise aboard Fort Pickett, Va., Dec. 12, 2010.
This was the first time the CLB conducted the training, which taught the Marines camp set up procedures and how to process internally displaced persons and refugees.
“These guys are enthusiastic, smart and motivated,” said retired Maj. Marty Klotz, the stability operations branch officer in charge with the special operations training group who headed the training for the Marines.
The Marines assembled field tents and a barrier with concertina wire. They set up a search and screening site, a reception center, medical center, and multiple tent cities designed to house the refugees and IDPs. The goal for the unit is to process and provide assistance for a minimum of 300 refugees and IDPs.
Marines assumed the roles of local nationals waiting to enter the processing area. Some were easy to deal with while others caused trouble and tried to enter without being searched or started fights with others waiting in line.
“The role players are very important because you never know how someone is going to act,” said Cpl. Alanzo P. Austin, a squad leader and Jonesboro, Ga., native, with CLB 22 who deployed with the MEU to Haiti in support of Operation Unified Response earlier this year. “It was an eye opener when we went to Haiti because you never know what to expect from someone.”
The Marines started the scenario just as a cold rain began to fall. They searched the role-players and guided them to the reception center, which tracks everyone who enters the camp. The role-players were then shown to their shelter where food and water were also made available to the victims in the exercise.
Treating the locals with dignity and respect brings a greater level of trust.
“When people start seeing that you’re helping them and you’re providing aid, then they may come forward with information,” said Klotz.
As the CLB prepares to deploy with the MEU in 2011, they may be called to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief for a number of reasons, to include natural disasters or countries that are facing political discourse.
“Humanitarian assistance, as far as I’m concerned, is the bread and butter of the MEU,” said Staff Sgt. Scott D. Faulkner, the engineer platoon sergeant and Lebanon, N.H., native with CLB 22. “It is one of our major missions.”
The CLB participated in a two-week training exercise at Ft. Pickett, Va., in preparation for their upcoming deployment with the 22nd MEU.
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its command element.
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are in the early stages of their pre-deployment training program, which is a series of progressively, more complex exercises designed to train and test the MEU's ability to operate as a cohesive and effective fighting force.
Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps' smallest permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force, commanded by a colonel and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response capabilities in a hostile or crisis mission. While deployed, each MEU also incorporates two KC-130 aircraft available from the continental U.S. to support the unit's operations abroad.
There are seven U.S. Marine Expeditionary Units located around the world with one in Okinawa, Japan, and three on each continental coast of the United States.