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U.S. Marines with Task Force 61/2 pose for a group photo at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, Nov. 16, 2023. TF 61/2 is deployed in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe areas of operation, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied and partner interests. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack Labrador)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jack Labrador

Welcome Home 2d MEB!

30 Jan 2024 | By 1stLt Jasmine Scott and 2ndLt Zachary Cargill 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade

Marines and Sailors with 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) returned to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, after completing an eight-month deployment as Task Force 61/2 (TF 61/2) in the U.S. Naval Sixth Fleet area of operations.

The conclusion of the deployment marks the second time 2d MEB deployed as TF 61/2 since the task force was established in 2022. 2d MEB, as TF 61/2, provided operational-level planning and exercised tactical command and control over units participating in a wide range of integrated operations, activities, and investments (OAIs). Headquartered in Naples, Italy, TF 61/2 aligns multiple Marine and naval forces under the Naval Amphibious Force commander including deployed Amphibious Ready Groups (ARG), Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU), Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Company Europe (FASTEUR), and other Naval and Marine Corps units designated to support the Fleet Commander’s priorities.

“The team played an integral role in the development and success of operations, exercises and   rapid execution of crisis response,” said Brig. Gen. Andrew T. Priddy, Commanding General, 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade/Task Force 61/2. “Through the employment of forces with our Allies and partners in a high operational tempo environment, the task force enhanced Sixth Fleet’s maritime domain awareness, advanced security and stability and bolstered amphibious force capability. The hard work of every Marine and Sailor made the deployment a success on all fronts. The staff’s expertise and high level of professionalism led to successful outcomes at operational and strategic levels.”

While under the tactical control of TF 61/2, Marines and Sailors from seven task groups and rotational forces supported a variety of interoperability exercises including port visits, multi-lateral exercises, and subject matter expert exchanges across two continents and over 20 countries. The Marines operated within the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations covering the High North, the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea region, and the Gulf of Guinea promoting stability, increasing interoperability, sustaining combat readiness, and providing crisis response capabilities while strengthening relationships with NATO Allies and partners.

The deployment began with the execution of Baltic Operations Exercise (BALTOPS) 23, an exercise created to strengthen the multinational response capability critical to preserving security in the Baltic Sea. Upon completion of BALTOPS 23, TF 61/2 immediately transitioned focus to support the Spanish Flotilla Exercise (FLOTEX) 23, a Spanish Navy led exercise that implemented, tested and evaluated the capabilities of the naval force. In late July, an immediate response team from TF 61/2 coordinated efforts to combat wildfires in Greece.

In the beginning of August, TF 61/2 supported subordinate units participating in a bilateral exercise in Norway that exercised integrated cold weather and live-fire training with the Norwegian Armed Forces. Spanning the month of August, TF 61/2 participated in Large Scale Exercise (LSE) 23, designed to refine the synchronization of maritime operations across multiple Fleets, in support of the joint force with a focus on Distributed Maritime Operations, Expeditionary Advanced Base Operation and Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment.

As personnel deployed and others rotated home, the task force oversaw Marine forces’ involvement in the Georgian and U.S. Army led exercise Agile Spirit (AS) 23, a multinational exercise that was designed to support theater security cooperation and interoperability among NATO Allies and partners. As AS 23 wrapped up, TF 61/2 transitioned to supporting Archipelago Endeavor (AE) 23, an integrated Swedish and Marine Corps field training exercise succeeding a renewed effort for Swedish accesnsion to NATO. At the end of September, TF 61/2 oversaw the execution of Exercise Lisa Azul 23, a bilateral training exercise focused on execution of tactical level operations and knowledge exchange between the Spanish and U.S. Marines.

The task force provided support to Exercise Northern Coasts 2023, a Baltic Sea exercise focused on the collective defense of NATO Allies in the area. Following Exercise Northern Coasts, TF 61/2 commanded forces taking part in Exercise Northern Challenge 2023, an annual exercise led by the Icelandic Coast Guard, aimed at delivering explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and improvised explosive device disposal (IEDD) training globally. This marked the first year the United States Marine Corps participated in the exercise.

As the world turned its attention to the conflict in the Gaza Strip, TF 61/2 shifted focus as well. The task force provided planning and operational expertise to form the core echelon of a three-star level JTF in support of forces preparing for potential eastern Mediterranean Sea operations as the conflict in the Gaza Strip intensified. Following TF 61/2’s support of U.S. preparations in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the task force employed forces that participated in Exercise Freezing Winds, a Finnish-led maritime exercise created to increase Navy readiness and partner interoperability. In early December, the task force oversaw the execution of a U.S. - Greece (Hellenic) bilateral exercise designed to exercise amphibious crisis response operations.

“The 2d MEB team took the lessons learned from our first iteration as TF 61/2 and built a robust and responsive command element capable of executing naval operations and crisis response in support of our Allies and partners,” Priddy said. “We planned and executed more exercises and played a crucial role in real world operations, including the firefighting operations in Greece and operations in the Eastern Mediterranean. As a task force, we gained real-world experience in the employment of forces utilizing Force Design concepts and crisis response actions. The team’s ability to flex and integrate with our Navy counterparts and Allied and partner nations provided the Sixth Fleet Commander with new and relevant capabilities in a dynamic operating environment. The 2d MEB team did a tremendous job, and I am proud of everything our Marines and Sailors accomplished throughout our deployment."

TF 61/2 demonstrates II Marine Expeditionary Force’s (MEF) support to the U.S. Sixth Fleet Commander while integrating concepts and capabilities as outlined in Force Design. TF 61/2 remains a highly flexible and dynamic task force, capable of rapid crisis response and enhancing the fleet’s maritime domain awareness to advance U.S. national interests, security, and stability throughout the European and Africa Command Areas of Responsibility.