by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Casey H. Kyhl
(Oct. 5, 2010) – The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), with support from the ships of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), completed a MEU certification exercise (CERTEX) Oct. 4 and is now certified for deployment.
The CERTEX was conducted to validate the MEU’s ability to effectively respond to unforeseen events and to keep the skill of individual Marines and elements sharp and ready for use in real-world events.
“Every time we embark an ARG ships for a deployment, we need to be certified as a MEU,” said Lt. Col. Michael Monti, the 31st MEU operations officer. “That certification proves that we are ready to be deployed anywhere we might be needed and we couldn’t achieve it without solid cooperation and communication between the Navy and Marine Corps.”
The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) served as a floating base of operations for the various drills and training included in the 16-day certification process.
"Essex Sailors were keenly aware of the importance of supporting the MEU CERTEX,” said Capt. Dave Fluker, Essex’ executive officer. “In order to execute the diverse mission sets upon which the Marines were evaluated, nearly every Essex Sailor played a role. Whether it was conducting flight operations, issuing ammunition, providing spare parts or serving over 8,000 meals a day, Essex Sailors quietly and professionally did their part to help ensure the success of the certification."
The certification included the evaluation of multiple evolutions, including small boat raids, visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) training, helicopter and mechanized amphibious raids, a non-combatant evacuation operation and more.
“Essex personnel have provided the backbone for communications throughout this exercise,” said Master Sgt. Ryan Parker, 31st MEU communications officer. “A large portion of CERTEX took place off the ship and we could not have completed it without their hard work.”
Monti, a veteran of MEU CERTEXs, said he was very impressed with the ability of Sailors and Marines to coordinate during this exercise.
“This is my third CERTEX and I know it is the best one we have done,” said Monti. “We quickly became integrated with Navy personnel and executed our mission well from the ship.”
The Essex ARG is led by Commander, Amphibious Squadron 11 and is composed of Essex, the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9) and the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) with the 31st MEU embarked. The Essex ARG is currently on patrol in the Western Pacific Ocean.