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Sailors and 15th MEU Conduct NEO

USS PELELIU, At Sea - Sailors aboard USS Peleliu (LHA 5) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted a Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) exercise, April 14, in preparation for an upcoming combined deployment.


April 21, 2008
Navy News

NEO provides evacuation support to American citizens and selected third-country nationals in a threatened territory with no means of escape. Marines and Sailors are often called upon to evacuate them to safety.

"It is extremely important that we train for missions like this because of the sensitive nature of moving civilians and families out of an uncertain environment," said 1st Lt. Robert Regedanz, battery executive officer of Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/5.
During the exercise, Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 15 and BLT 2/5 were sent by CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters to a potentially hostile fictional environment to provide security, medical treatment and accountability for all evacuees.

Once Marines land at the evacuation site, the perimeter around the area is secured by the BLT.

"Our goal is to provide an organized approach to what could be a very hectic situation," said Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Hendrix, attached to CLB-15.

The CLB is in charge of evacuation control and processing the evacuees through check points to confirm they are manifested, healthy and accounted for.

"We group the evacuees in a secure area," said Hendrix. "This is so we can effectively and efficiently get the evacuees checked out and transported as safely as possible."

The evacuees are then taken by helicopter, landing craft air cushion (LCAC) or landing craft utility (LCU) to safety. The Marines have the capability, at full capacity, to evacuate 80 to 100 people an hour from land to sea.

"Our job is to maintain order by making sure our security is tight and that the evacuees are where they need to be throughout the process of moving them out of the country," said Cpl. Manuel Ayala, attached to BLT 2/5. "We all have different tasks, but our mission remains the same."

When the evacuees land aboard the ship, they go through a checkpoint with security. Sailors are checking for anything that could be a threat to the ship and its personnel.

"We set up a security team around the hangar bay so that everyone coming on board can be checked and sent to the right station," said Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Michael Meyervanparis, of Peleliu's master-at-arms office. "We try to keep everything running as smoothly as possible."

From the security checkpoint, the evacuees go through an identification station where colored bracelets are given to separate American citizens, expired passport holders, and VIPs.

"This is one of the most important stations evacuees go through," said Yeomen 1st Class (SW/AW) Krystal Trotter, part of the identification station. "We find out everything from dependants to the language spoken. Medical is also a crucial stage."

The medical station gives rapid screenings of the evacuees' conditions. Any medical emergency gets expedited to the triage areas where trained medical teams can treat the situation.

"We have two purposes for the medical station," said Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Schiemel, Peleliu's senior medical officer. "To protect the crew from any possible diseases and to ensure the non-combatants are appropriately cared for."

Any personal possessions evacuees want to have secured are taken to the dispersing station. This is also where a Navy cash card is given to the evacuees so they are able to purchase any additional food or necessities from the ship store.

"If they have valuables or money, we put them in a safe place," said Personnel Specialist 1st Class (SW) Aldwin Camuro. "We also have spaces where the evacuees can put their pets."

The NEO exercise was conducted to ensure both Naval and Marine personnel are prepared for this real life threat.

"The exercise we are conducting right now could very well be a real life situation while we are on deployment," said Peleliu Command Master Chief B. W. Williams. "With everything going on right now in the world, we have to be properly trained and ready."