USS IWO JIMA, At Sea -- The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit began a fresh chapter by embarking on its 2015 deployment Dec. 16. The MEU's crisis response mission is scheduled to last around seven months and remains similar to those of the last several decades—to provide the President with a forward-deployed, flexible, sea-based force tasked and ready to respond to wherever it may be called. As the MEU and Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group steam east across the Atlantic, it's appropriate for current MEU Marines and Sailors to look back at those who have gone before.
The 24th MEU story began during the Vietnam era, when in 1971 it was branded the 34th Marine Amphibious Unit and focused on operations in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas. Throughout the 70s and 80s, the MEU provided a continued presence throughout these three bodies of water. In 1982, it was re-designated as the 24th MAU before being re-designated again in 1988 as the 24th MEU.
"I am excited to deploy with the 24th MEU," said Sgt. Kody R. Seemann, a bulk fuel specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th MEU. "I like knowing we can react to any crisis or situation at any climb or place in a moment's notice."
After participating in combat operations during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, components of the 24th MEU took part in Operation Provide Comfort, delivering food, supplies and medicine while transporting ethnic Kurds from northern Iraq and Turkey to safe havens and short-term tent cities. In the late 90s, 24th MEU AV-8B Harrier IIs joined a NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia and supported a no-fly zone over Iraq. In the winter of 1998, MEU Marines provided security at the U.S. Embassy in Albania.
"This is a great opportunity to train with and visit many different countries," said Cpl. Dylan J. Jeffery, a Light Armored Vehicle repairman with Light Armored Reconnaissance detachment, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. "I am excited to see what lies ahead for us for the months to come."
In August 2002, during the Global War on Terror, the 24th MEU embarked from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. During its nine-month deployment, the MEU contributed in Operation Dynamic Response in Kosovo and Operation Iraqi Freedom before returning home in May 2003.
In July 2004, the MEU departed for Iraq again. The MEU's deployment marked the first time in recent history that a MEU did not deploy as part of an Amphibious Ready Group. Arriving in Iraq by cargo, troop transports, and aircraft, the MEU served as part of the 1st Marine Division. The MEU was responsible for stability and security in northern Babil and southern Baghdad provinces, reported "safe havens" for insurgents. The 24th MEU also helped secure the "Triangle of Death" for the first free Iraqi elections.
"This unit has been through a lot ever since its birth," said Jeffery. "I'm glad to be a part of a unit that plays a vital role in our Marine Corps history."
In February 2008, the 24th MEU began deploying its Marines and Sailors to Kandahar, Afghanistan. They began their combat operations in April 2008. Marines of the 24th MEU flooded into the Taliban-held town of Garmsir, April 29, 2008, in Helmand province, in the first major American operation in the region in years. By 1 June 2008, the Taliban were pushed out of Garmsir.
In 2010, After the Haiti earthquake on Jan. 10, the MEU diverted from its scheduled Middle East deployment to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to Haiti, as part of Operation Unified Response, bringing with it the first V-22 Ospreys to be used for a humanitarian mission.
"We are getting back to our amphibious roots, we are working together with the Navy and it feels great to be a part of this blue/green team," said Seemann.
After the MEU's 2012 deployment in which the unit handled numerous potential crisis response contingencies, the unit revised its logo to include the words "Crisis Response Force" on the logo to highlight the MEU's long-time mission as America's Premier Crisis Response Unit and is current to this day.
This unit, ever since its creation 44 years ago, has been a reliable and quick response to crises and occurrences around the world. This 24th MEU's 2015 deployment is ready to do the same and completed its full training package in early November 2014, receiving its certification to respond to all these situations that have occurred over the numerous years.
"We are the tip of the spear," said Seemann. "My Marines and I are ready for whatever the MEU needs us to do."
The 24th MEU, based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, is currently with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, the ARG/MEU team.