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11th MEU Marines exercise noncombatant evacuation skills.
Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story Identification Number: 20001122143258
Story by Sgt. Eric McLeroy

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(Nov. 6, 2000) -- Across the globe, Marines are prepared to provide the United States with a broad spectrum of options when American interests are threatened or in situations where immediate action is required.

Eleventh Marine Expeditionary Unit, commanded by Col. Charles S. Patton, is currently preparing for these potential missions and recently honed its Noncombatant Evacuation Operation skills Nov. 6, during Comprehensive Training While Underway Exercise.

The NEO was supposed to be a hasty evacuation, according to Cpl. Steve Knutson, Evacuation Control Center staging lot noncommissioned officer. The scenario called for an immediate evacuation of members from various nongovernmental organizations, American citizens and third country nationals from a MEU-established humanitarian camp after intelligence reports surfaced detailing terrorist activity.

A group of terrorists threatened stability in the region and planned a large-scale attack against the refugee camp. Nongovernmental organization personnel within the camp and surrounding areas were primary targets and requested the evacuation.

"The ECC is hectic," Cpl. Marvin Esplana, a litter bearer, said. "It can start as one thing and end up another."
Shortly after NEO forces arrived, a truck carrying evacuees simulated a crash en route to the ECC.

The 25 Area Combat Town here became a center for havoc when these simulated casualties converged on the compound.

"We didn't expect mass casualties," Knutson, a 20-year-old, Riverside, Calif.-native stated. "But it happened, and the ECC and litter bearers worked quickly together and got everyone out."

The NEO force, comprised of Marines from MEU Service Support Group 11, Battalion Landing Team 2/1, and 11th MEU Command Element, rushed to their aid and quickly began the evacuation process, according to Knutson.

"I didn't expect that," Cpl. Jason Barber, Military Police Detachment and said. "It just came out of nowhere. We were maintaining security and then dealing with casualties at the same time."

Military Police, Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel and intelligence specialists were on hand as part of the NEO force. They physically searched each person for weapons, looked through luggage for bombs or contraband, and questioned those suspected of being terrorists during the screening and processing phase of the evacuation.

Treating the injured and conducting searches was a challenging aspect of the training, according to 23-year-old Military Policeman LCpl. Jeff Davis.
"I'm used to providing convoy security, but here I'm doing something totally different," the Buffalo, N.Y. native said. "We're trained to do this, but this was the first time working with all the other units."

While Major Supporting Elements of the MEU have previously worked together, COMPTUEX marks the first time the Marines carried out operations from the sea.
The exercise also allowed Marines to familiarize themselves with life aboard ship before departing for a six-month deployment to Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf Regions next year.

"I thought this was good training," Barber said. "We should prepare for the things that could go wrong and more scenarios that might come up."


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