15th MEU Concept of Operations Insight
Upon arrival in the Indian Ocean in the next three days or so, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit will begin what is known as "split-ARG operations." ARG stands for Amphibious Ready Group and represents the ships that the MEU is embarked upon. The ARG that the MEU is inhabiting consists of the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), the USS Duluth (LPD-6), and the USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52). "Split ARG" means that the battle group will split into two parts and conduct separate missions independently of each other. According to this article on the 15th MEU site, the USS Bonhomme Richard will head toward Sri Lanka, while the USS Duluth will stay near Indonesian waters. The article doesn't mention where the Pearl Harbor is headed, but we think it will stay with the Bonhomme Richard. Perhaps the Bonhomme Richard is headed to Sri Lanka because there are few operable airfields on the island and its deck will have to do, or perhaps because it has a greater command and control capability for operating independently. We'll see when things develop. The subordinate elements of the MEU are being split between these two parts of the ARG. The Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, along with the Air Combat Element, HMM-165, and the MEU Service Support Group-15 (MSSG-15), or the combat service support element, are all more or less halving themselves and their equipment and figuring out how to divvy up what they possess. While 2200 Marines in a MEU sounds like a lot, they are spread extremely thin in many areas, like maintenance, supply and engineering. As a combat engineer, I participated in a number of exercises meant to simulate planning for deploying on a MEU with an Engineer Support Detachment, part of the MEU Service Support Group. The entire detachment is only around 35 Marines, and the entire MSSG is only about 250, though headed by a Lieutenant Colonel. The MSSG is by far the most thinly spread of all the embarked commands and figuring out how to accomplish what needs to be done with the assets at hand is one of the trickier aspects of planning. MEU staffs usually become very creative in accomplishing different objectives. Interestingly enough, the Commanding Officer of MSSG-15 this time around, LtCol Hatton, is a veteran of the LA riots and Operation Sea Angel. The CO and XO of 1st Bn, 1st Marines have equally interesting resumes. More on the upcoming operation as it develops . . .