The US Marine Corps’ 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) became the first East Coast MEU to deploy with a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System detachment embarked with the Iwo Jima amphibious ready group.
During the 2021 deployment, the 24th MEU is exploring a different approach towards employing HIMARS as a theater-level expeditionary asset—keeping the asset forward in the task force’s area of operations as opposed to embarked on naval vessels.
“MEUs operate globally, year around as the nation’s force-in-readiness,” said US Marine Corps Col. Eric D. Cloutier, commanding officer, 24th MEU. “As we lean into the future fight, expanding our reach and flexibility by utilizing platforms like HIMARS gives us the ability to facilitate maneuver and freedom-of-movement for friendly forces, and our Allies and partners, while denying our adversaries the ability to do the same.”
HIMARS has been in service with the Department of Defense since 2005 and was fielded by the US Marine Corps in 2008 in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
As the Corps looks to the future and refocuses on its naval roots, commanders are exploring the numerous options for employing the vehicle-mounted precision rocket system in more dynamic operations in the maritime and littoral environment.
Embarking HIMARS platoons aboard Amphibious Ready Group ships and deploying them via surface connectors, such as landing craft utility vessels, is a concept of employment that West Coast MEUs have rehearsed, and developed to a high level of proficiency.
Maintaining a forward deployed land-based element of HIMARS that is attached to the MEU allows it to capitalize on strategic lift capabilities provided by USMC and Joint platforms in support of ARG / MEU missions. A HIMARS platoon, with strategic lift, can quickly infiltrate contested environments, prosecute targets, and depart before adversaries are able to detect or engage them. This technique is known as HIMARS Rapid Infiltration.
The 24th MEU conducted HIRAIN in both live-fire and rehearsal events since early 2021 during pre-deployment training. Since deploying, the 24th MEU has engaged in multiple opportunities for sustainment through rehearsals with joint units in theater, like the 352d Special Operations Wing, based in the United Kingdom.
The Iwo Jima ARG consists of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17), and dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50). Another first that is being introduced by the ARG during this year’s deployment is the at-sea debut of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle with an East Coast MEU.