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September 19, 2005

1/2 prepares for future deployment

LtCol "Drew" Smith sends this update for families and friends of his 1/2 Marines:

Greetings to the families and friends of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, Second Marines. At the time of the last update, the BLT was embarked aboard amphibious shipping and was fully engaged in the execution of the Expeditionary Strike Group Exercise (ESGEX). I am pleased to report that the exercise went extremely well with each company displaying very sound integration with our US Navy counterparts and demonstrating excellence in their core capabilities as each responded to simulated real-world contingencies. It is worth noting that the completion of the ESGEX represents a significant step in the BLT's overall pre-deployment training schedule. We now have our sights set on the Certification Exercise, or CERTEX; another combined “at-sea? and ground training evolution that will begin in mid-September and will carry through to the first week of October. It is during this exercise that the BLT will be formally evaluated in its ability to execute special operations and conventional missions as the Ground Combat Element (GCE) of 22 MEU. The CERTEX has all the makings of being a very demanding and rewarding training evolution. The BLT has worked very hard up to this point and in a wide variety of areas to increase its tactical proficiency and enhance its overall ability to successfully accomplish assigned missions. I have complete confidence that the superb team of Marines and Sailors that comprise BLT 1/2 will aggressively meet and exceed mission objectives. I look forward to sharing the many stories of mission success with you in mid October.

My hope is that the Labor Day Holiday offered a time for our Marines, Sailors and families to relax and enjoy a few days away from the training schedule. It is worth noting that the BLT, as the Air Contingency Battalion (ACB), had increased its alert posture briefly over the Labor Day Weekend in anticipation of supporting aid and recovery operations in New Orleans, LA. In the end, a fellow infantry battalion from here in Camp Lejeune was directed to deploy to New Orleans area, thus allowing the BLT and 22 MEU to continue its training schedule and prepare for the up and coming deployment. The BLT remains the ACB; however, it along with the other elements of 22 MEU will not deploy in support of the disaster relief operations in and around New Orleans.

I want to add my personal "thanks" to all for the safe conduct of the holiday period. As you might suspect, longer holiday weekends allow for personnel to travel longer distances to see family and friends than what can be executed on regular weekends. As the Commanding Officer, I take great reward in seeing my Marines and Sailors enjoying well-deserved time off with family and friends. I can understand that I am also greatly relieved when my commanders report to me that they have recovered all their personnel safely after any liberty period, and particularly after a long holiday weekend. It is during the latter periods that personnel will often attempt to drive longer distances, at times with increased speed, in order to maximize the time with friends and loved ones. I have also found that some of our younger warriors tend to press the envelope in recreational activities. Speed, fatigue and mixing driving and recreational activities with alcohol continue to be the primary factors in injury and death to Marines and Sailors. Before my Marines and Sailors depart for the weekend, they are exposed to several different operational risk management (ORM) initiatives, ranging from safety briefs to vehicle safety inspections, and review of travel plans should they be traveling in their personal automobile. Leaders within the BLT are pressing home the message of safety in all that we do. I humbly ask that moms and dads, brothers, sisters and friends help us reinforce to our service members the importance of safe and responsible conduct while on liberty. The strength of this BLT rests in the health and readiness, faithful service and professional contributions of each of its members. The contributions to that end by our families and friends located in hometowns are invaluable. Please keep up the great work.

The first and second week of September will find the BLT engaged in a variety of activities in preparation for the CERTEX and the impending deployment. The list of requirements and events is long and varied and ranges from a detailed maintenance inspection, enhanced rifle marksmanship training, medical and dental readiness, to instruction on ship-board fire fighting and thorough administrative review of individual's service records including updating of wills, powers of attorney and record of emergency data. We will be leaning forward in completing these very important requirements so that our Marines and Sailors can return from a successful CERTEX in early October, clean and ready their weapons and equipment for the deployment, and then ready themselves for a well-deserved pre-deployment leave period.

With regard to the pre-deployment leave period, I envision the BLT being authorized to take leave from the 12th to the 31st of October. At this writing, I know of no circumstances, or contingencies that would prevent leave from occurring during the aforementioned period. I will add that there is always the possibility of developing real-world requirements impacting the leave period, so I would ask that you maintain good communication with your service member to receive any updates. For now, "it looks good" for the 12-31 October. Specific guidance will be provided to the Marines and Sailors on when they will be authorized to depart on the 12th and when they will be expected to be physically back and accounted for in the BLT area on the 31st.

Finally, I want to extend my most sincere thanks to two groups; the ladies that make up the BLT 1/2 Key Volunteer Network and our families. The first group plays an integral role in the overall readiness of this organization. This group of over thirty ladies - spouses of our Marines and Sailors - serve as a conduit of information and referrals for assistance for both our married and single personnel. The second group, our families deserve the utmost appreciation for supporting their respective Marine or Sailor while they serve our great nation. "Thanks for all you do."

Until next time, "best regards to all."

1/2 Battalion is comprised of three rifle companies, a weapons company, and a headquarters company. They arereinforced by a variety of forces from throughout the 2nd MARDIV, including tanks, assault amphibian vehicles, combat engineers, etc. Collectively, the reinforced battalion is referred to as a Battalion Landing Team.

Posted by Deb at September 19, 2005 11:57 AM

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