The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit assumed operational control Dec. 15 of the major subordinate elements with which it will deploy next summer, including; Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22. Photo by: Graphic by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks
22nd MEU Assumes Operational Control Its Major Subordinate Elements
Submitted by: 22nd MEU
Story Identification Number: 2002121405730
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks


CAMP LEJEUNE, NC (Dec. 15, 2002) -- The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) assumed operational and planning control of its major subordinate elements (MSEs) Dec. 15, a major step in preparing for its deployment next summer as the landing force for the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

Beginning in January, the MEU and its MSEs will start its pre-deployment training that begins with a number of courses sponsored by the II Marine Expeditionary Force's Special Operations Training Group (SOTG). Such courses include, but are not limited to, helicopter and mechanized raids, the tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, dynamic entry and close quarters battle, and boat raids. SOTG will evaluate the MEU's progress during a series of exercises that will culminate in a Special Operations Capable Exercise (SOCEX).

At the helm of the MEU is Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., a 1979 Citadel graduate who assumed command of the unit in early October. McKenzie, whose most recent assignment was with the Plans, Policies and Operations Branch at Headquarters Marine Corps, has commanded Marines at the platoon, company and battalion levels, including a stint as a MEU battalion landing team commander.

Approximately one quarter of the 22nd MEU Command Element's Marines and Sailors who deployed with LF6F2-02 will remain with the unit to provide much-needed continuity for the upcoming deployment. In addition to its staff sections, the Command Element also consists of the MEU's Force Reconnaissance platoon, counter- and signals intelligence specialists, a Marine Liaison Element detachment, and a MEU Personnel Administrative Center.

The 1st Bn., 2d Marines will supply the MEU's main punch as its Ground Combat Element (GCE). Led by Lt. Col. Rickey Grabowski, the unit has seen operational service in the 'Banana Wars,' World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Dominican Republic intervention, and Operations Desert Shield/Storm, Eastern Exit and later, Continue Hope in Somalia, and Sea Signal in Cuba.

Detachments from throughout the 2nd Marine Division will reinforce 1/2; including the 2d Assault Amphibian Bn., 2nd Tank Bn., 10th Marine Regiment, and 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Bn.

Providing the MEU with its air arm is Marine Medium Helicopter 162 (HMM-162). The Aviation Combat Element's (ACE's) current commanding officer, Lt. Col. Robert F. Hedulund, is scheduled to relinquish command of the unit to Lt. Col. Darrell Thacker in min-January. No stranger to the 22nd MEU, Thacker most recently completed two deployments with the unit; one as its executive officer and one as the ACE executive officer.

Since its activation in 1951, the squadron has participated in military operations throughout the world, including stints in Vietnam, Operations Nimbus Moon/Star in Cyprus, peacekeeping efforts in Beirut, Operations Sharp Edge and Assured/Quick Response in Liberia, Provide Comfort in northern Iraq, Restore Hope in Somalia, numerous operations in the Balkans, Autumn Shelter in the Congo, and Silver Wake in Albania.

Additional aircraft from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing will bolster the squadron's organic CH-46E Sea Knights including CH-53E Super Stallion, AH-1W Super Cobra, UH-1N Huey helicopters, and AV-8B Harrier II attack jets.

Although it has experienced nearly a 100 percent turn-over in staffing, MEU Service Support Group 22 will again deploy as the Combat Service Support Element (CSSE), this time commanded by Lt. Col. Thomas N. Goben. Charged with providing maintenance, landing support, medical and dental care, motor transport and a host of other specialized skills, MSSG-22 has provided support to the 22nd MEU for nearly 20 years, active in the unit's humanitarian and combat operations.

The 22nd MEU will embark aboard the amphibious ships USS Saipan, Ponce, and Gunston Hall. As part of the newly-conceived Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), the MEU will also deploy with a small flotilla of Navy combatants including a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, and attack submarine, all with permanent support from P3C Orion surveillance aircraft.

During its most recent deployment, the 22nd MEU undertook a number of counter-/anti-terrorist operations in the Horn of Africa, Persian Gulf, and south Asia regions, and also missions in Afghanistan, a regional stability tasking, and extensive humanitarian operations in Djibouti, now a hotbed of II MEF activity.

For more information on the 22nd MEU, visit the unit's website at