Marine exercise: Good for the Corps, good for St. George; STGnews Videocast, Photo Gallery

ST. GEORGE – The United States Marine Corps 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed a ground realistic urban training last night in St. George in preparation for its upcoming WESTPAC 13-2 deployment.

The training mission

The MEU mission involved a fictional bomb IED-making facility in the St. George area, which the Marines called the “country of black,” for purposes of the exercise. It included terrorists and high-value targets and the unit’s goal was to capture the targets and destroy the facility.

Maj. A.J. Goldberg said that members of the MEU had been at the target scene for two weeks prior, staging the compound on the Shivwits Band of Paiute Indians’ Reservation, acting out surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence gathering at the location.

In the following video, Goldberg describes the staged mission; story continues below

Videocast by A.J. Mellor, St. George News

Goldberg and 1st Lt. Dana Mitchell described some of the roleplaying involved: Scraps of paper with information would be found by Marines doing reconnaissance. In the prior two days, a white truck might come and go from the fictional compound, providing valuable intel to the guys doing reconnaissance. Others would fast-rope out of the Ospreys and form a defensive perimeter before clearing the compound.

The “country of red?” That would be Arizona, Goldberg said, possibly a country from which materials were channeling into the “country of black” for its undesirable operations.

They definitely did accomplish the mission, Staff Sgt. Matthew Orr said on Friday.

Aviation assets

The first aircraft in was the KC-130J Hercules carrying senior members of the 13th MEU, and Marines and Sailors establishing a communications tent for intelligence coordination between the target site at Shivwits and the incoming Marines and Sailors.

MV-22B Ospreys at St. George Airport for 13th MEU training exercise, St. George, Utah, May 9 2013 | Photo by A.J. Mellor, St. George News
MV-22B Ospreys at St. George Airport for 13th MEU training exercise, St. George, Utah, May 9 2013 | Photo by A.J. Mellor, St. George News

The KC-130J, also referred to as the C130, has a range of 1,000 nautical miles on a tanker mission, 2,875 nautical miles on a cargo mission. It contains fuel bladders that were filled sufficient to refuel all the Ospreys involved in the mission.

Four MV-22B Ospreys flew in for refueling. The Ospreys have a range capability of 600 nautical miles unrefueled, have a short landing vertical variant, and the ability to carry 20,000 pounds of internal cargo / 15,000 pounds of external cargo.

“The Osprey has revolutionized our sphere of influence,” Maj. Glenn Stuart said. Sphere of influence involves the distance the MEU units are able to cover from a command launch.

Following the Ospreys came the CH-53E Super Stallion, the “heavy lift” of the Marine Corps. The CH53 has the capability to lift itself, Glenn said; in other words, it can actually lift another CH53, or it can lift two humvees as another of many examples.

Why St. George?

The St. George region as a training ground, although reminiscent of mission grounds like Afghanistan, most importantly afforded the 13th MEUs unfamiliar territory that required them to travel 340 nautical miles away from their launch at El Centro, Calif., to practice a high-entry raid on a fictional compound and leave with an objective of a 1.5 hour turnaround in the St. George region.

“It’s a new area, it gives us an opportunity to train outside of our comfort zone,” Maj. Chris Taylor said. The region allowed for a local, land-based mission, that the unit could go into, execute and return to California in about four hours.

Military use of the St. George Airport

Military use of the St. George Municipal Airport involves no income or expense to the airport or the City of St. George, and such use is common, although not on such a visible scale as this training exercise.

“We’re actually an emergency landing field for Nellis Air Force Base,” Airport Operations Supervisor Brad Kitchen said, as well as indexed for Aircraft Rescue Firefighters. He said that a lot of military training goes on in the skies over St. George – when you see circles in the skies, they are usually indicative of military training going on up there.

The airport is jointly funded by the city and the federal government, weighted on the side of the federal government particularly as to maintenance. Its operations are self-sustaining, Kitchen said.

“We have to let everyone use the airport,” he said, “we have to keep it open for any user who wants to use it.” And, “we are doing things out at the airport that we could never have done at the old airport because of the size of it, we could never have landed a C130 at the old airport.”

Training at Shivwits Reservation

The military does a lot of training at the Shivwits Reservation.  They call it an MOA or military operations airspace, Kitchen said, which is an airspace the military is able to train in – it is nonexclusive to the military.

“One reason (the 13th MEU) chose St. George is because we’re so close to the MOA,” Kitchen said. “It doesn’t cost us anything to let them use it, they come in and they run the operation, the only thing they use is the runway and ramp area, they come in and keep everything clean and leave it the way it was when they go.”

Benefit to St. George

In addition to the positive public relations aspect of such training in St. George, Kitchen said he thinks it’s a benefit to have the MEU train here, giving them familiarity with our facility which would be a positive thing in the event they should ever be needed in response to a natural disaster or a terrorist attack in or near to this area.

Likewise, the mission allowed local fire rescue personnel to gain familiarity with the military’s assets.

“Our fire rescue personnel met with them and saw the KC130 and learned where the fuel shut-off systems, the power systems, the hydraulic systems are,” Kitchen said, “so if anything did occur here – our first job is to save lives, we’re a first response unit that goes in – first thing we do is get bodies out of the aircraft and start shutting down systems to keep people safe – so if anything happened one day we are now familiar with the aircraft.”

MEUWho are the MEUs?

The MEUs take pride in being America’s force for readiness, for rapid contingency response, Mitchell said.

“The Marines are America’s 911 force,” Maj. Chris Taylor said.

Of the seven MEU units – three based on each of the West and East Coasts and one based in Japan –  the 13th MEU is stationed at Camp Pendleton in California and is currently preparing for deployment in the fall of 2013 to the Western Pacific.

The MEUs have a unique synergy of combat elements: aviation, logistics and ground. They excel in logistics and tactical missions, serving in combat, humanitarian needs such as disaster relief and embassy operations in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State.

What is unique about the MEUs is that they are trained to do anything, Capt. E.T. “Ted” Vickers said, as opposed to training with a more specific – and in that sense limited – training focus that comes with units which are mission-specific; for example, training specifically to going into Afghanistan.

“We can do anything,” Vickers said.

Their tactical capabilities are many. One is their ability to purify water sufficient to serve thousands and thousands, Mitchell said, as they did in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake; or dealing with radiological issues as they did in Operation Tonodachi with Japan’s nuclear plant, Stuart said. And extractions, as they did in Liberia.

Navy-Marine Corps Team
Navy-Marine Corps Team | Diagram courtesy of USMC 13th MEU | Click on image to enlarge

“What makes us most relevant is that we’re Navy based,” Glenn said.

The MEU teams up with the Navy’s Amphibious Ready Group, which squadrons, called PHIBRONs, each include three ships: an amphibious assault ship, an amphibious transport dock, and a dock landing ship.

The MEU supports the PHIBRON with its GCE Battalion Landing Team, ACE Composite Squadron and LCE Combat Logistics Battalion – in other words, ground, aviation and logistics.

Historic missions

Some of the MEU combat missions  have been Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Desert, Operation United Shield in Somalia in 1995.

MEU humanitarian aid missions have included Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina.

And extraction missions in coordination with the State Department have included evacuation of the Lebanon Embassy, reinforcement at the Albanian Embassy and Operation Safe Departure in Eritrea.


Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 



Related post

Marines landing at SGU for ground realistic urban training


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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  • Shell May 10, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Unfortunately for me, they were flying above my home in Green Spring till 1 a.m. Could not sleep .

    • Diane Empey May 12, 2013 at 7:08 am

      @shell. Fortunately for AMERICA, all of us included, these young men volunteer to put their lives on the line. They have MANY hours and days of NO SLEEP. MUCH thanks to the men and women of the military and their families!!!
      Thanks for the terrific article!

  • Mack Sutton May 11, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Good morning. I was in the Marine Corps back in the 60’s. We didn’t have this kind of special training. Thank you St. George for providing the Corps a place to train. This is another reason we LOVE our City and our Country. GOD bless our City of St. George and GOD bless the Marine Corps. Semper Fi.
    Mack Sutton, Cpl. U.S.M.C.

  • Earl May 11, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Nicely done, Joyce. An amazing show, hope they come back soon.

  • Matthew Sevald May 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Thanks Joyce for the follow up.
    I didn’t know that SGU was a backup field for Nellis. It makes sense, but not something I ever thought about. And you wrote a nice article explaining the broader aspects of the MEU and training for the public who doesn’t have experience with it. Very educational for them. Its sort of funny to see from the outside now how all those propaganda cliche terms the Corps uses like “We’re America’s 911 force” actually bring some scope to the public. We used to laugh at how stupid they sounded when we’d hear them regurgitated ad nauseum in every press release.
    I also commend the Commander for thinking outside the box and moving his training AO into new territory to avoid complacency. I have to admit, however, that i’m disappointed this exercise only included air and infantry units, but its understandable – to actually have deployed vehicles (which normally land from the sea) would have cost many millions of dollars.
    All-in-all, I’d like to see more of a Marine (military, but I’m biased) presence here in St. George. The Marines wouldn’t enjoy spending their liberty here, but as far as a field op goes, this rugged wilderness provides excellent opportunities. Using Shivwitts is a perfect balance between not affecting too many civilians and being able to incorporate urban aspects to the training schedule. Throw up some plywood structures to improvise a village and you have the perfect little combat town that’s easily taken apart when training’s done.
    One more thing I’d like to point out to the conspiracy-minded amongst us, this sort of training has been happening near military bases around the country for decades with no ill-effects. Additionally, when I was in we had many conversations on long nights standing duty about the military using force against the American people. The consensus always was that there were so many pro-Constitutional members of the military that any orders that might be followed by some top brass for political and career purposes would fall apart as soon as they reached the ground. Have faith in your fellow Americans. Those serving in the military aren’t the slack-jawed country rubes so many make them out to be. They’re conscientious, they’re patriots, and they take the oath to defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic very seriously.

  • Sherry May 11, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    I have a great deal of respect for the military and the service they provide to the country. Thank you, thank you.

    The timing was horrible. I could almost touch the belly of the Ospreys as they flew directly over my house in Kayenta (next to the reservation). Being clueless as to what was happening during the five hours, 9-2, did not help my anxiety. A practice mission in the winter would give them plenty of hours of night sky to finish up at a reasonable hour. Specifically, midnight. With all of the wilderness around here, I am surprised they do not have a mock village in it. Perhaps Hollywood could do a movie in the middle of nowhere and leave the village up for the military.

    Thank you for writing a great article!

  • Mattew May 11, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    At least someone is getting use out of the airport.

  • Col C.D. "Chuck" Taylor May 11, 2013 at 11:03 pm


    Sorry I got in late and missed you Would liked to have chatted in person. Let me know via Ted if you would like an engagement. We can arrange a phone conversation.

    Please pass the following to the fine Patriots of St George:

    I regret our hours. We train to the challenges and extremes of an austere and opposing world. Our Marines and Sailors are forward deployed and on patrol 24/7 around the globe, and we have to be ready. Our common love of Nation and steadfast devotion to liberty and freedom are common bonds. Our Marines and Sailor are preparing to go forward into harms way in defense of our freedoms and way of life, as many honerable men and women have gone before. I owe the most thorough and rigorous training possible to our Nations’ finest young men and women, your Sons and Daughters, to prepare them for the riggors and challenges ahead. This is a moral obligation to which I am beholden.

    The St. George and other giving communities’ support are central to our preparations. Thank you.

    Semper Fidelis and God Bless America!


    • Diane Empey May 12, 2013 at 7:05 am

      Thanks so much for your love of country and service!

    • Big Don May 12, 2013 at 11:59 am

      Thank you Colonel for doing what you do! Thank God that someone does! People who whine about the “noise” or the “hour of the noise,” are free to do so, because of you and your brothers/sisters in arms. I welcome a night, (or several,) of interrupted sleep if it means you folks are training and keeping sharp! Of course, it is my sincere wish that you never have to put that training to use. But both you and I, know better than that.

      Again sir, I thank you.

  • Diane May 12, 2013 at 5:54 am

    @shell. Fortunately for AMERICA, all of us included these young men volunteer to put their lives on the line. They have MANY hours and days of NO SLEEP. MUCH thanks to the men and women of the military and their families!!!
    Thanks for the terrific article!

  • Teresa May 12, 2013 at 10:31 am

    There is a saying, “Pardon Our Noise, It’s The Sound Of Freedom. There is nothing in the world I love more than the sound of the pounding vibrations of those mighty tilt-rotors as they soar through the air. It gives me a feeling of security as our young men and women train in order to protect our nation. Thank you Marines!

  • jc May 13, 2013 at 8:01 am

    I am very thankful to support our troops….help them anyway , we can……the noises and the thumps were awesome to experience even if it was late in the night…. i am saddened by all these people who complain and complain…….and call in radio stations to complain…. troops! i welcome you back anytime…..

  • Janeen Carter May 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks for this great article. I have a personal interest as my son is Cpl Carter whose picture you have in the article. I did not know much about the all that was to happen with these exercises so I really appreciate the informative article.

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