Marines practice non-combatant evacuations

12 Dec 2010 | Cpl. Dwight A. Henderson 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Imagine that you’re visiting or living in a foreign country. Suddenly, that country is on the verge of a civil war, the government is almost overrun and travel in and out of the country is suspended.

Who will be there to ensure you return to America safely?  True to their moniker of no man left behind, the Marine Corps will be there if called upon to ensure your safe return.    

Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 22, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted noncombatant evacuation operations training during an exercise aboard Fort Pickett, Va., Dec. 11, 2010.

The Marines trained to process 100 noncombatant evacuees an hour in case an occasion arises where they must evacuate civilians.

First Lt. Chad T. Phillips, a motor transport officer and Jacksonville, N.C., native with CLB 22, added that this training shows the versatility of the Marine Corps.  Marines can go from a combat environment to evacuating civilians safely from a potentially volatile situation.

“The Marines have improved a lot,” said Phillips. “They’re really getting the hang of it.”
Marines drove engineer stakes into the ground and strung up engineer tape to mark various sections of an evacuation control center.

The main parts include the reception, searching and screening, administration-processing, and embarkation sites.

They also incorporated detainee and medical sites.  The Marines use these different stations to track, process and provide safety to those who come through the ECC.

Marine role-players assumed the roles of government dignitaries, American and host nation civilians.  Not all the role-players were easy on the Marines.  Some pretended to be drunk, tried to sneak in drugs and one was a known terrorist.

“A lot of the role players acted ridiculous, but it’s very necessary,” said Cpl. Jason Lasalle, a radio operator with CLB 22, and Philadelphia native. “A lot of these situations can happen.  Nobody really knows what could happen in a noncombatant evacuation.”

The Marines learn to treat every evacuee with dignity and respect.  At the search site, only women search women and men search men.  Evacuees are given an amnesty period where they can turn in anything illegal.  Corpsmen also offer medical care for those who are sick or hurt.

As the CLB prepares to deploy with the MEU in 2011, they could find themselves operating an ECC.  This training offers them a chance to further prepare for any situation that could arise on deployment.

“This may not be the number one mission of the MEU but it is certainly up there,” said retired Maj. Marty Klotz, the stability operations branch officer in charge with the special operations training group, and Cincinnati, Ohio, native. “I like the mission because it’s a righteous mission.  You join the military to take care of fellow citizens.”

The CLB is participating in a two-week training exercise at Ft. Pickett, Va., in preparation for their upcoming deployment with the 22nd MEU in 2011.

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.

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.

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.