Right now, as this story is published, the USS Fort McHenry and embarked elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) have begun northbound transit of the Dardanelles Strait, enroute to the Black Sea.
That's 2200 U.S. Marines and an incredible variety of war fighting / invasion equipment.
This is precisely the type of military unit one would send if they intended a lightning military strike to take Crimea back from Russia and give it to Ukraine.
A Marine expeditionary unit (MEU, pronounced "Mew"), is the smallest Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) in the United States Fleet Marine Force. Each MEU is an expeditionary quick reaction force, deployed and ready for immediate response to any crisis, whether it be natural disaster or combat missions.
A Marine expeditionary unit is normally composed of: a reinforced Marine infantry battalion (designated as a Battalion Landing Team) as the ground combat element, a composite medium tilt-rotor squadron forms the aviation combat element, a combat logistics battalion provides the logistics combat element, and a company-size command element serves as the MEU headquarters group.
Troop strength is about 2,200 and usually commanded by a colonel, and is deployed from amphibious assault ships.
Currently, a Marine expeditionary unit embarks Marines and equipment onto the amphibious warfare ships of an Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) which also includes escort ships and submarines to protect them from air, surface, and submarine threats.
For further protection and strong air support, such an ESG is often deployed along with one or more carrier battle groups.
The MEU is unique in that its air and ground combat elements are combined with a logistics combat element under one commander; other services do not unite the command of air and ground forces until much higher command levels.
When the United States Army integrates with Air Force assets, it typically is at the theater or corps level, with a general commanding, while at the division level it will integrate with Army aviation, which can be organized as organic at the battalion level.
The MEU's ground combat element also combines artillery, light armor and tanks at a much lower level than was common in the Army until the development of the brigade combat team early in the War on Terror, with a similar concept, the combat command, being utilized in World War II.
This air-ground task force concept is designed to thoroughly exploit the combat power inherent in air and ground assets by closely integrating them into a single force. The MEU brings all the supplies and logistical support it needs to sustain itself for quick mission accomplishment or to pave the way for any follow-up forces. This self-sustainment allows more flexibility in disposition and operations of forces, and allows the MEU to initiate operations sooner and let support catch up later, without having to wait for external logistical support to begin a mission. Deployments on U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships allows MEUs to sea base around the globe, ready for deployment at short notice.
A typical MEU has approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors. It is equipped with:
|4||M1A1 main battle tank||ground|
|7 to 16||Light Armored Vehicle||ground|
|15||Assault Amphibious Vehicle||ground|
|6||155mm howitzer: M777||ground|
|8||M252 81mm mortar||ground|
|8||BGM-71 Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missile weapon system||ground|
|8||FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile||ground|
|4 to 6||AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters||aviation|
|3||UH-1Y Venom light utility helicopters||aviation|
|12||MV-22A Osprey medium-lift tiltrotor aircraft||aviation|
|4||CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift transport helicopters||aviation|
|6||AV-8B Harrier V/STOL light-attack airplanes||aviation|
|2||KC-130 Hercules aerial re-fueler/transport airplanes
Note: usually maintained in the continental United States
|2||Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit||logistics|
|1||LMT 3000 water purification unit||logistics|
|4||Tractor, Rubber Tire, Articulated Steering||logistics|
|2||TX51-19M Rough Terrain Forklift||logistics|
|1||Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement dump truck||logistics|
|4||Mk48 Logistics Vehicle System||logistics|
|7||500 gallon water containers||multiple|
|30||Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement trucks||multiple|
|5||Boeing Insitu RQ-21 Blackjack||aviation|
Many types of equipment are, or will soon, undergo a transitory phase as they are replaced. Some examples include the Marine Personnel Carrier replacing the LAV-25, the F-35 Lightning II replacing the AV-8B Harrier, and the CH-53K Super Stallion replacing the CH-53E.
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) is one of seven Marine Expeditionary Units currently in existence in the United States Marine Corps. It is a Marine Air Ground Task Force with a strength of about 2,200 personnel. They are currently based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and fall under the command of the II Marine Expeditionary Force. It is the most decorated of the Marine Corps' seven MEUs.
As shown on the map below, the Dardanelles Strait is the first of two such strategic waterways needing to be traveled to get to the Black Sea. The second of the two waterways is the Bosphorus Strait which passes through Istanbul.
Much was made prior to Christmas of Ukraine positioning thousands of troops and tanks near Donetsk. At the time, fears were that Ukraine intended to take the breakaway province and return it by force to Ukrainian control.
NOW, however, it may be that the total buildup of Ukraine forces near Donetsk was to cut-off any Russian reinforcements heading to Crimea, so as to allow CRIMEA TO BE TAKEN BACK.
This is an incredible development in world events and does not bode well for peace. At all. (Additional Updates appear Below the Warning notice below)
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UPDATE 1:42 PM EST --
Sources are now telling me the President will address the nation Wednesday night at 9:00 PM eastern time. RIGHT NOW we are being told it is to declare a national emergency at the southern border, and use the military to close it or build a wall. HOWEVER, it could very well be to tell the American people that we are now engaging in combat with Russia in Crimea. Stay tuned.