February 10, 2017
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Five days may not seem like a lot of time, but during this time the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit accomplished significant milestones that will provide the U.S. and its allies the best capabilities during their WESTPAC 17-2 deployment.
Current threats in the world are complex and dynamic. The 15th MEU will be deployed to the Central and Pacific Command areas of responsibility. Many of the challenges facing the Central Command region are most notably posed by the violent extremist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham.
One potential threat in the region is a chemical threat. Recently Iraqi forces discovered a mustard chemical warfare agent in eastern Mosul. Chemistry labs were found when Iraqi forces retook Mosul University; these labs are believed to have been converted into makeshift weapons labs by ISIS terrorist groups.
With this growing danger becoming more prominent, the 15th MEU’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear and Explosive Ordinance Disposal teams trained toward identifying and mitigating this threat.
“What we’ve been noticing through reports we’ve received, enemy forces are using different chemicals to make simple weapons that can have a deadly impact,” said Staff Sgt. Randy Blancett, the 15th MEU CBRN chief. “We have a specialized gear set that allows us to enter environments with possible chemical or biological threats, identify those threats and assess how the enemy might use them.”
Ensuring an objective is free of chemical threats is vital. It allows our forces a closer glimpse into the enemy’s tactics when concocting chemical weapons, this is one way the 15th MEU’s presence can contribute to making a significant difference on countering this dangerous threat. Site exploitation cannot be conducted, however, until the site is secure, which is where the Maritime Raid Force and Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines come in.
During the 15th MEU’s first exercise, the MEU planned missions based off of a fictional scenario simulating potentially realistic conditions and environments. The MRF and BLT conducted the raid in a replica town to capture a high-profile enemy leader as well as gather intelligence they would then analyze in an effort to counter enemy threats. The concurrent action of these two combat forces, and the CBRN and EOD teams would occur if the Marines breaching the buildings noticed anything resembling bomb-making materials or chemical labs.
“We can enter any environment that has a chemical or biological threat, as well as most environments that have a radioactive threat,” explained Blancett. “We can identify what the threat is, and in a lot of cases we can stop the process of what they are doing. As far as the munitions and weapons they are trying to make out of this, EOD absolutely has the ability to dispose of them, by themselves or joint with other forces.”
The cohesion of the MRF, BLT, CBRN and EOD is just one of the ways that make the Marine Expeditionary Unit one of the nation’s toughest fighting forces. MEU-EX was the first demonstration of the ability for each individual unit with their own unique skills sets to seamlessly merge into one rapid response team that can overcome and dominate any situation.