15th Marine Expeditionary Unit

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15th Marine Expeditionary Unit

15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Insignia
Active July 1, 1987 - present
Country United States
Branch USMC
Type Special Operations Capable - Marine Air Ground Task Force
Role Forward-deployed, rapid-response force
Size 2,200
Part of I Marine Expeditionary Force
Garrison/HQ Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
Battles/wars Operation Restore Hope
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Colonel Brian D. Beaudreault

The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU) is one of seven Marine Expeditionary Units currently in existence in the United States Marine Corps. The Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) with a strength of about 2,200 personnel. The MEU consists of a command element, a reinforced infantry battalion, a composite helicopter squadron and a MEU service support group.The 15th MEU is currently based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.


The mission of the MEU is to provide geographic combatant commanders with a forward-deployed, rapid-response force capable of conducting conventional amphibious and selected maritime special operations at night or under adverse weather conditions from the sea, by surface and/or by air while under communications and electronics restrictions.


Early years

In April 1983, the Commandant of the Marine Corps approved the original Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Headquarters concept, providing for the sourcing of two Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) headquarters from each Marine Amphibious Brigade headquarters. The Commandant directed the establishment of two additional MAU headquarters in November 1985. As a result, the Headquarters, 15th Marine Amphibious Unit was activated July 1, 1987 at Camp Pendleton.

The Commandant directed the replacement of the title "Headquarters" with "Command Element" in the titles of the MAGTFs in August of 1987. The 15th MAU’s designation was further changed in February 1988 to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Both changes were made to more accurately reflect the operational and expeditionary nature of the MAGTF. Prior to World War II, and in the period between the war and the Vietnam Conflict, Marine units dispatched for overseas service were generally designated as “expeditionary brigades."

Since its activation in July 1987, the 15th MEU has trained to meet its mission in the rotation with the 11th and 13th MEUs to provide a continuous presence in the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Persian Gulf and as a ready MAGTF in the continental United States.

In October 1989, the MEU assisted in relief efforts following the San Francisco earthquake, performing their assigned missions and also taking on several volunteer projects to help the victims of the disaster.


Marines of the 15th MEU evacuated the Republic of the Philippines in June 1991 after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Assistance lasted over amonth as the Marines distributed food and medical supplies, evacuated stranded villagers and provided security to other rescue personnel.

The MEU spearheaded Operation Restore Hope on December 9, 1992, to provide humanitarian assistance to the civil war torn and famine stricken country of Somalia. After a predawn landing, the Marines secured the capital city of Mogadishu, the international airport and maritime shipping port facilities, as well as the American Embassy, and quickly moved into other inland areas to protect food distribution convoys and patrol the streets to restore order. The MEU pushed into and secured the inland cities of Baidoa, Balidogle and the coastal town of Kismayo in order to establish relief efforts and maintain security. The span of operations for the Battalion Landing Team was over 150 miles.

During its deployment in 1994, the MEU provided a detachment of CH-53Es to assist in the Rwanda Relief Effort. . The detachment, based in Entebbe, Uganda, provided the only heavy lift capability to the joint task force commander. A few weeks later the MEU assisted in the relocation of the United States Liaison Office from Mogadishu, Somalia to Nairobi, Kenya.

In October 1994, the MEU was called on again to provide a quick reaction force to counter any possible Iraqi aggression against Kuwait. Within 48 hours, the MEU sent Marines ashore in Kuwait City to demonstrate U.S. resolve in maintaining peace and security in the area.

In January 1996, July 1997, and October 1998, AV-8B Harriers from the 15th MEU (SOC) participated in Operation Southern Watch, patrolling the No-fly zone over southern Iraq maintaining continuous surveillance of the Kuwait-Iraq border, and to ensure the Iraqi military did not violate any United Nations resolutions passed since the Gulf War.

During its 2000 deployment, the 15th MEU (SOC) also participated in the Australian-led Operation Stabilise, providing desperately needed assistance to the people of East Timor, and again patrolled the skies over Southern Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch.

Global War on Terror

Infantrymen from the 15th MEU at Camp Rhino on November 25, 2001
Infantrymen from the 15th MEU at Camp Rhino on November 25, 2001

Following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the 15th MEU (SOC) continued their plans of humanitarian operations to assist the war-torn country of East Timor, before sailing to the North Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

On October 7, 2001, the 15th MEU participated in the United States' new "War on Terrorism," sending Marines and Sailors into Northern Pakistan to establish a forward operating air base and logistical hub.

On November 25, 2001, the Marines and Sailors of the 15th MEU (SOC) conducted an Amphibious assault over 400 miles into the land-locked country of Afghanistan. The Marines and Sailors set new standards for Marine Corps amphibious doctrine. Landing at a remote airbase, 90 miles southwest of Kandahar, the Marines established Camp Rhino, America's first Forward Operating Base while maintaining the first significant conventional ground presence in Afghanistan. The Marines and coalition forces later moved north to Kandahar International Airport securing a new forward operating base. With the move, the Marines and coalition forces were able to continue with new missions and build a prison camp that housed numerous Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters.

On January 6, 2003, this time onboard the USS Tarawa ARG, the 15th MEU (SOC) departed once again for another deployment. In mid-February, elements of the MEU off-loaded and established a training camp in Northern Kuwait while other members of the MAGTF — primarily the helicopter squadron — remained onboard the Tarawa ARG in the Persian Gulf.

During February and March 2003, the MEU was assigned tactical control (TACON) to the United Kingdom's 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines for Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, Marines from the 15th MEU crossed the border into Southern Iraq and secured the ports of Umm Qasr and Az Zubayr in order to destroy Iraqi resistance and enable follow-on humanitarian assistance to begin.

In late-March 2003, the MEU again became part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force and moved to An Nasiriyah, Iraq to relieve the Marines of Task Force Tarawa. In An Nasiriyah, the 15th MEU secured the remaining sectors of the city, conducted a supporting attack during the rescue of American Prisoner of war Jessica Lynch and continued to establish security throughout the greater An Nasiriyah area. The MEU provided humanitarian assistance to the local population that included purifying drinking water, and doctors and corpsmen assisted medical care. The MEU began helping establish the local government to include police and other local services in addition to continuing to conduct airborne surveillance and direct-action raids on the ground to seek out and capture any Ba’ath Party or Fedayeen resistance.

In January 2005, the 15th MEU participated in Operation Unified Assistance by providing disaster relief to survivors of the massive tsunami in Sumatra, Indonesia and southern Sri Lanka. Immediately after wrapping up those operations, the 15th MEU proceeded to Baghdad, Iraq to provide security and stability in a rural area of the city.

Current Units

  • Ground Combat Element (GCE) - 2nd Battalion 4th Marine Regiment
  • Air Combat Element (ACE) - HMM-165 [REIN]
  • Combat Service Support Element (CSSE) - Combat Logistics Battalion 15

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