Thursday, October 15, 2009

BATARG, 22nd MEU Demonstrates Amphibious Capabilities During Bright Star

A landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) from Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4 approaches the shore for an amphibious beach assault demonstration near Alexandria, Egypt during Exercise Bright Star 2009, as two CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters fly overhead. The multinational exercise is designed to improve readiness and interoperability among U.S., Egyptian and participating forces. The biennial exercise is conducted by U.S. Central Command. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stephen Oleksiak/Released)

An updated video report on Bright Star 2009 is available at

By Marine Capt. Clark Carpenter, 22nd MEU Public Affairs

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (NNS) -- Coalition forces along with Marines and Sailors from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) stormed Egyptian beaches near Alexandria during a major amphibious assault demonstration Oct. 12 as part of Exercise Bright Star.

The simulated assault combined the forces of the Egyptian army and navy, Pakistani marines, Kuwaiti marines, and U.S. Navy and Marine Corps forces from the MEU and ARG.

"The amphibious assault demonstration was not only a great demonstration of the cooperation of regional militaries, but it highlighted the amphibious expertise of the Marine Corps, Navy and coalition partners," said Col. Gareth F. Brandl, commanding officer of the 22nd MEU and native of Virginia Beach, Va.

According to MEU operations officer, Lt. Col. David Owen, the MEU has been planning for the exercise since June. Final details of the amphibious assault demonstration were coordinated between coalition participants upon arrival earlier in the week, he added.

"There was a significant amount of detailed planning that went into this event to ensure success," said Owen. "This is a great example of how we can work together with our partner nations in this region, regardless of any language barrier, and plan and execute very complex mission sets like the amphibious assault demonstration today."

Although the demonstration did not begin until mid-day, movement of aircraft, personnel and equipment began before dawn. The previous day included a full rehearsal to ensure the precise timing of the landing.

Twelve aircraft from the MEU, five landing craft from the Bataan ARG, two Egyptian landing craft utilities, six amphibious assault vehicles, five Egyptian amphibious tracked vehicles and a host of forces from other partner nations participated in the event.

"This was a team effort," said Brandl. "Conducting operations like this with our partner nations now will help ensure we can conduct future missions in a proficient and professional manner."

The day's event began as a team of Egyptian special forces inserted on the beach, simulating beach reconnaissance prior to the assault. Shortly after, four AV-8B Harriers from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (VMM) (Reinforced), attached to 22nd MEU, streaked over the viewing stand to simulate the targeting of enemy positions on the beach.

The next waves of forces consisted of AAVs and Egyptian amphibious assault craft which displayed the maneuverability and firepower amphibious vehicles can deliver on enemy positions ashore. The last waves brought the MEU's light-armored vehicles and the Humvees of the unit's Combined Anti-Armor Team to the beach aboard landing craft utility vessels from Assault Craft Unit 2 and Landing Craft Air Cushioned transports from Assault Craft Unit 4.

"This type of training is important because it shows us what we can accomplish working with other forces from around the world," said Cpl. Gabriel T. Church, native of Marion, N.C., and a vehicle commander with Combined Anti-Armor Team, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd MEU. "As the theater reserve force, there are endless possibilities of what we may be asked to do - non-combatant evacuations, humanitarian relief or combat operations. This training helps keep our edge sharpened if the situation calls for it."

Bright Star, the longest running exercise in the U.S. Central Command's Area of Operations, was established in 1981 as a result of the Camp David Peace Accords. The CENTCOM and Egyptian co-sponsored exercise is designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships and improve readiness and interoperability between U.S., Egyptian, and coalition forces.

The 22nd MEU, led by Col. Gareth F. Brandl, is a scalable, multipurpose force of more than 2,200 Marines and Sailors. The unit is composed of its ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 3/2 (commanded by Lt. Col. Robert C. Fulford); aviation combat element, (VMM) 263 (Reinforced) (commanded by Lt. Col. Paul P. Ryan); logistics combat element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22 (commanded by Lt. Col. Gary F. Keim); and its command element. The unit is serving as the theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command.

The Bataan ARG, led by Capt. Jack Sotherland, is composed of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), amphibious transport dock USS Ponce (LPD 15), amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Fleet Surgical Team 6, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, ACU 4, and Beachmaster Unit 2.