U.S. Marines and Sailors with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit embraced their loved ones after returning to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and MCAS Yuma, Arizona, May 19-22, 2021, from a seven-month deployment embarked aboard the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group.
During deployment, the 15th MEU and Makin Island ARG spent time in the U.S. 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th Fleet areas of operation, and supported Operation Octave Quartz in Somalia, Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, Theater Amphibious Combat Rehearsals in Kuwait and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Exercise Northern Edge 2021 in Alaska.
“This deployment was very different and unique, however, overall I feel very accomplished in what my Marines have done to impact the Marine Corps future design, operating concepts, future MEU constructs, and most importantly the intelligence community,” said Master Sgt. Michael Quintero, intelligence chief with the 15th MEU. “My Marines busted their butts off day and night and made me proud.”
For some Marines and Sailors, the 15th MEU deployment was their first time interacting with another military service on a daily basis or being embarked aboard a Navy ship. Marines and Sailors were embarked aboard the Makin Island ARG, composed of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), and amphibious transport dock ships USS San Diego (LPD 22) and USS Somerset (LPD 25).
“It was kind of rough at first, mostly because a lot of the other guys had never dealt with being on ship, in close proximity with another branch and learning a new way of doing things,” said Cpl. Bryan Fentress-Taglisferi, an intelligence specialist with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 15th MEU. “In the end, everything was pretty good, coming away with a new perspective on things.”
For the first few months, Marines and Sailors adapted to ship rules and regulations, and integrated with Sailors aboard the three ships of the ARG, which is part of the overall experience of a MEU. While deployed, Marines had the opportunity to go ashore to conduct training events and exercises in different countries.
“We went to Kuwait for a little bit over a month to support TACR, and the best thing about Kuwait was the camels,” laughingly said Cpl. Marleen Armijo, a radio operator with Alpha Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU. “Getting to experience a whole new environment and getting to see and experience a whole new country was awesome. I got to shoot a lot, I got to throw grenades and drop mortar rounds. The training we got was really good.”
When Marines weren’t ashore and training, they found balance and routine between work and personal life.
“In my own time, I mainly worked out, hung out with the boys, played some video games and listened to music, whatever you can, really, to make the time go by,” said Fentress-Taglisferi. “The one thing I’ve missed the most on this deployment was definitely my wife.”
The 15th MEU composited in April 2020, shortly after COVID-19 swept across the nation. COVID-19 affected the 15th MEU during pre-deployment training and deployment, requiring stringent mitigation measures both ashore and on ship.
“I really didn’t know what to expect about this deployment since COVID struck, so I went and did my job and tried to have a positive attitude,” said Armijo. “The best part of the deployment would have been training with my (Marine Corps) brothers. I got to train with Alpha Company and get to know them better. I taught them about my work as a radio operator and they taught me specifics about their jobs and what they do.”
Due to the COVID pandemic, Marines and Sailors were limited to liberty ports, but were able to take a break from life at sea when they stepped foot on land in Bahrain, Oman and Guam for a few days.