Since World War II, the United States Marine Corps has deployed protection forces, organized into Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTF) with a combination of air, ground, and support assets. These forces later became established as seven different Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU). Today, the 26th MEU currently exists as one of seven different MEUs out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

In April of 1967, the 26th MEU was formed and quickly deactivated later that year, which was a norm during that time. The 26th MEU was re-activated in 1975 as the 36th Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU). It was redesignated as the 26th Marine Amphibious Unit later in 1982. It was the first of the MAUs to undergo Special Operations Capability training. In 1988, the unit was redesigned as the 26th MEU.     

The 26th MEU consists of four elements–a Command Element, Aviation Combat Element, Ground Combat Element and a Logistics Combat Element. These elements make up the smallest MEU of the MAGTFs with around 2,400 Marines and Sailors.

The Ground Combat Element (GCE) is the largest element of the MEU, consisting of approximately 1,200 Marines and Sailors and is built around an infantry battalion. It is designated as a Battalion Landing Team and uses medium and heavy machine guns, scout snipers, combined anti-armor teams and mortars.

The Logistics Combat Element (LCE) consists of about 300 Marines and Sailors. It provides supply, maintenance, explosive ordnance disposal, military police, transportation, engineering, fuel storage and distribution, water production and distribution, medical and dental services, fuel storage and distribution, and other services. The LCE gives MEU support for 15 days in austere expeditionary environments.

The Aviation Combat Element (ACE) is a composite squadron. This squadron has been given the nickname “Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron.” Approximately 500 Marines and Sailors work in the Aviation Combat Element. They consist of air traffic control, aviation logistics/supply capabilities, and aircraft maintenance/support.

The Command Element (CE) consists of the Commanding Officer and about 200 Marines and Sailors. The Commanding Element is responsible for overall command and control for effective planning and execution of operations. It also synchronizes the actions of each element within the MEU.

Colonel Farrell J. Sullivan is the commanding officer of the 26th MEU. Col. Sullivan was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on May 26, 1993. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Col. Sullivan is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and earned a Bachelor of Science in Political Science. He possesses multiple Master’s degrees in Military Studies, Operational Studies, and Strategic Studies from the Marine Corps University.

In September 2001, the 26th MEU was one of the first U.S. forces into Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

During Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, Marine Corps KC-130s traveled 1,100 miles and delivered more than 1,000 Marines directly to the battlefield in Mosul, Iraq, a feat that had never been attempted before. The unit received Meritorious Unit Commendation with two Bronze Stars in 2003 from their operations in Liberia.

One of the 26th MEU’s most recent activities was a training with Portuguese Marines during Trident Juncture 15 in November 2015. Trident Juncture was an exercise training designed to work with allied forces in order to maintain high-end warfighting readiness across NATO. This training was designed to develop and increase interoperability among other partner nations with NATO.

In 2017, the 26th MEU celebrated its 50th anniversary on April 25. On the 46th anniversary of the MEU in 2013, Col. Sullivan stated, “…Our nation may need us when our nation is least ready and we are most ready. We are that certain force in an uncertain world.”

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