MCAGCC TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Packing for vacation can be a minor hassle.
Packing for war is major work.
From April 2-6, 7th Marines conducted Strategic Mobility Exercise 2001, in which every unit in the regiment prepared for an emergency deployment. From start to finish, Marines took every step they would take in the event of a real-life deployment, from initial notification to embarkation.
Gearing up for global emergencies is not as simple as throwing gear in a seabag and grabbing some MREs, said 7th Marines Embark Chief Sgt. Joe Flores. It's an extraordinarily complicated affair that has to be completed in a limited amount of time.
"This is what Marines do," Flores said. "We have to be able to do this sort of thing well if we want to keep being the country's rapid-response force."
Marines from the 1st Tank Bn.; 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Bn.; 3rd Bn., 11th Marines; 1st and 2nd Bns., 7th Marines and Headquarters Co., 7th Marines participated in StratMobEx 01.
Marines and Sailors from those units spent the week packing their gear and their units' equipment they would need for the "deployment." But StratMoBex covered much more area than merely assuring Marines could gear up for battle quickly.
There were also more mundane, though equally important, tasks to complete, many of which took place after Marines' normal working hours. Units took turns getting pre-deployment medical and dental screenings and went to the Staff Judge Advocate's office to declare powers of attorney and write last wills and testaments. Units also updated their service record books at the Installation Personnel Administration Center. Units simulated taking care of personal business such as packing household belongings and storing vehicles. Finally, Marines formed up for their final pre-embarkation inspections.
That's a lot for several thousand Marines and Sailors to get done within a few days, but some didn't even get that much time.
"Some units have to be ready to deploy within 48 hours," said CWO2 Richard Ekborg, 7th Marines embarkation officer.
He explained that the first, and therefore quickest responding, of the regiment's Marines during a deployment are the Surveillance, Liason, and Reconnaissance Party. The SLRP team makes an initial assessment of the arrival and assembly area and assists the respective commanders and their staffs in the final evaluation of the arrival and assembly plan and preparation for the MPF operation.
The SLRP team, comprised of officers and enlisted Marines from throughout the regiment, took their gear and vehicles to March Air Reserve Base near Riverside April 6. The team loaded an Air Force C-141 cargo jet with two Humvees and a trailer full of all the equipment they would need to pave the way for the rest of the arriving Marines. Once the jet was loaded, the team conducted a fly-away as if it were actually on its way to a trouble spot. However, the plane only landed in Palm Springs.
"This was good for Marines who've never deployed before, or never flown," Flores said. "Now, they know exactly what their responsibilities are."
"Everything went really well," Ekborg said, explaining that such a regiment-wide exercise tests the deployment readiness of units, and the base support structure all over the Combat Center, from administration, medical, legal and personnel readiness to the base's ability to provide assistance to the deploying units. "StratMobEx stresses the units in preparation for deployment, ensuring we have the right people and equipment at the right place and time, ready for deployment at a moments notice."