USS PELELIU, At sea - The Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) conducted a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) exercise off the coast of Southern California.
The NEO exercise is designed to demonstrate the Peleliu ARG's ability to evacuate civilians as part of humanitarian relief operations. The drill involved 36 Marines from Kilo Company 2nd Platoon from 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and approximately 25 simulated non-combatants ashore.
"The Navy has some unique capabilities that allow us to conduct NEO operations," said Lt. Cmdr. Bradley Coletti, Amphibious Squadron Three operations officer. "We have the ability to come in from both the sea and air which gives us an opportunity to leverage both our Navy and Marine [Corps] assets. Working together with the 15th MEU will allow us future opportunities to protect American citizens aboard and to remove people from harm's way."
Peleliu's part in the exercise involved its medical staff preparing to receive casualties. The ship's aviation squadrons transported Marines via helicopter from Peleliu and other ARG ships. Four utility landing craft carried equipment, vehicles and personnel assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 15. Among the Marines who were sent to Camp Pendleton was Staff Sgt. Luis Maceira, platoon sergeant for Kilo Company 2nd Platoon.
"My platoon works security for combat logistics battalion and our mission is to evacuate citizens from an unsafe environment," said Maceira. "We secure the town and let the CLB pull out American citizens, while other Marines secure the air field and get those citizens processed."
Simulated evacuees were processed through security check points and transported to another designated area. Those requiring medical attention would have possibly been brought to Peleliu.
"Our role is to prepare to receive causalities that we may encounter throughout our expedition around the world and provide humanitarian assistance when needed," said Lt. Cmdr. Cari Matthews, emergency physician, 15th MEU. "We are a level two trauma center and can provide surgical care and give blood. This is a very robust hospital capability that is actually amazing."
This exercise tested the overall ARG's teamwork and multiple layers support.
"Overall the NEO exercise was considered to be successful," said Coletti. "We were able to safely evacuate all of the 'American citizens' and to recover all of the Marines and equipment back to ARG shipping in a timely manner."
The ARG consists of the 15th MEU, embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and amphibious transport dock ship USS Green bay (LPD 20) and is currently underway conducting composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) in the Pacific Ocean.